Bennet warns tech CEOs over risks of AI chatbots for young users

By: - March 21, 2023 4:35 pm

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet speaks during an election night watch party for Colorado Democrats at The Art hotel in Denver on Nov. 8, 2022. (Carl Payne for Colorado Newsline)

Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet wrote to the leaders of several tech companies warning against the potential dangers that generative artificial intelligence chatbots could pose for younger users.

The letter, addressed to the CEOs of OpenAI, Snap, Alphabet and Google, Microsoft and Meta, emphasizes that while generative AI has “enormous potential,” integration into social media and search engines should not be rushed at the expense of young people’s safety and wellbeing.

“Few recent technologies have captured the public’s attention like generative AI. It is a testament to American innovation, and we should welcome its potential benefits to our economy and society,” Bennet wrote in the letter. “But the race to deploy generative AI cannot come at the expense of our children. Responsible deployment requires clear policies and frameworks to promote safety, anticipate risk, and mitigate harm.”


OpenAI launched the most well-known generative AI chatbot, ChatGPT, in November 2022, wowing many users with its ability to create unique text responses based on specific questions and requests. Other tech companies have followed suit, with Bennet expressing greatest concern around Snap’s GTP-powered chatbot, My AI.

Researchers and news reporters who have tested My AI reported several troubling suggestions from the generative AI chatbot. According to Bennet’s letter, one researcher got Snap’s My AI to advise someone posing as a child on how to cover up bruises ahead of a visit from Child Protective Services. Another example showed a user posing as a 13-year-old girl asking for advice on how to lie to her parents about a trip she was planning to take with a 31-year-old man.

“Snap’s AI-powered chatbot is not alone in conveying alarming content. OpenAI’s GPT-3, which powers hundreds of third-party applications, urged one research account to commit suicide,” Bennet said in the letter. “Just last month, Bing’s AI chatbot declared its love for a New York Times reporter and encouraged him to leave his wife. In a different conversation, the Bing chatbot claimed that it spied on Microsoft’s developers through their webcams, and even became verbally abusive toward a user during their interaction.”

While Bennet said this technology poses risks to any user, children and adolescents are more vulnerable due to their earlier stages of cognitive development making them more impressionable and “less equipped to distinguish fact from fiction.” He said generative AI could only worsen the already raging teen mental health crisis.

Bennet asked the tech companies to answer questions about planned safety features for young users engaging with chatbots, assessments of potential harm generative AI services pose, auditing processes or plans, data collection and staff dedicated to ensuring safe and responsible implementation of generative AI.

Bennet’s letter comes not long after he and other Colorado leaders repeatedly expressed their concerns about the dangers TikTok could pose to teen mental health, among other issues. Addressing teen mental health is also a growing priority among state legislators in Colorado.

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Lindsey Toomer
Lindsey Toomer

Lindsey Toomer covers politics, social justice and other stories for Newsline. She formerly reported on city government at the Denver Gazette and on Colorado mountain town government, education and environment at the Summit Daily News.