Bing falsely accuses aerospace professor of being a terrorist

Occurred: July 2023

Aerospace professor Jeffery Battle was falsely identified as a terrorist by Bing’s search engine, leading him to sue the technology company for defamation. 

The issue arose when Bing’s AI-based summarisation feature conflated information about two individuals with similar names: Jeffery Battle, the aerospace professor, and Jeffrey Leon Battle, who was convicted of trying to join the Taliban.

The search results incorrectly combined the details of these two individuals, leading to the false impression that the professor had pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy. This error was a result of the rule-based algorithm following the instructions provided to it, rather than a machine learning algorithm.

In his lawsuit, Battle alleged that he had informed Microsoft about the problem, but it was not promptly fixed

The case highlights the potential risks and complexities involved in using AI algorithms for critical tasks.

Developer: Microsoft
Country: USA
Sector: Research/academia; Education
Purpose: Generate text
Technology: Chatbot
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Defamation; Mis/disinformation; Liability
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Legal, regulatory 👩🏼‍⚖️