OpenAI has quietly reversed its ban on the military use of its artificial intelligence tools, including ChatGPT. The change in policy coincides with OpenAI’s collaboration with the U.S. Department of Defense on AI tools, particularly open-source cybersecurity tools. Anna Makanju, OpenAI’s VP of global affairs, revealed this shift in a Bloomberg House interview at the World Economic Forum, alongside CEO Sam Altman.
Previously, OpenAI’s policies explicitly stated a prohibition on the use of its models for activities with a high risk of physical harm, such as weapons development or military applications. However, the company has now removed the specific reference to the military, although the policy maintains a general directive against using their service to harm individuals or for weapon development.
OpenAI clarified that the intention behind the policy change is to provide greater clarity and to permit military use cases that align with the company’s mission, emphasizing that their tools should not be used to harm people, develop weapons, engage in communications surveillance, or cause harm to others or property. The spokesperson highlighted the existence of national security use cases that are consistent with OpenAI’s mission.
This policy revision comes amid a broader context of controversy surrounding tech companies’ involvement in military projects. Tech workers, especially those working on AI, have raised concerns about contributing to military applications.
Notable instances include Google employees protesting Project Maven, a Pentagon project utilizing Google AI for drone surveillance analysis, and Microsoft employees objecting to a $480 million army contract for augmented-reality headsets.
Additionally, over 1,500 Amazon and Google workers expressed opposition to a joint $1.2 billion contract with the Israeli government and military, involving cloud computing services, AI tools, and data centers. The decision by OpenAI reflects the ongoing debate within the tech industry regarding the ethical implications of collaborating with military organizations.