Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, has donated $3 million to fund an effort to create a ratings system for generative artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT, as he worries about the future of the industry and the internet.
Newmark made the pledge to Common Sense Media, which provides aged-based reviews for movies, television, books, games podcasts and more, to fund development of “an AI ratings system for parents, educators, policy makers and regulators so they can evaluate what makes certain tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT safe or unsafe for children,” CNBC reported.
The boom in AI in the past few months was a bit of a shock to Craig Newmark, the 70-year-old internet pioneer said, even though he’s eyed the technology for decades. “While I tried to pay some attention to what was going on, just everything caught me by surprise,” Newmark said.
“I believe in the work that Common Sense Media is doing to educate Americans about powerful technologies that offer so much promise but at the same time can, and in many cases already do, inflict chaos and harm on our society,” Newmark said in a statement released earlier this month.
As the broad capabilities of AI exploded across the online world, from ChatGPT to chat bots to search engines, and the discussions about potential for these technologies to harm society became more clear, Newmark started looking at the issues more closely.
“I realized that if a search engine was using sources that weren’t reliable, if the sources were about lying to people, that would create a big, ethical problem, and you really don’t want a news source of any sort to knowingly lie,” Newmark said.
Newmark, who has donated much of his fortune in recent years to efforts to fight misinformation and bolster journalism — including endowing the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, which was named for him in 2018 — along with countering online harassment and cybersecurity issues, has now turned to funding efforts to get a handle on the spread of AI.
Among his concerns are how social media platforms have largely pulled back from removing information they know is dishonest just as the rise of AI makes it easier for bad actors to use those tools to create misleading content. Some watchdogs, meanwhile, have pulled back from funding research into fighting misinformation amid fears of being publicly criticized in the current polarized political atmosphere.
“I guess the profits to be made in being a really good professional liar, those profits have greatly increased because the internet is a big amplifier,” Newmark said. “It’s everyone’s printing press, and you get to use it as a printing press, whether your intentions are good or bad.”
His donation to Common Sense Media reflected his growing concern.
“Protecting kids when it comes to AI is a big issue,” Newmark said. “A lot of groups and politicians talk about protecting kid, but these guys are the real deal, and so I’m helping them.”