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New York City’s AI chatbot has been telling businesses to break the law

New York City’s AI chatbot has been telling businesses to break the law

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An artificial intelligence-powered chatbot created by New York City to help small business owners is under criticism for dispensing bizarre advice that misstates local policies and advises companies to violate the law.

But days after the issues were first reported last week by tech news outlet The Markup, the city has opted to leave the tool on its official government website. Mayor Eric Adams defended the decision this week even as he acknowledged the chatbot’s answers were “wrong in some areas.”

Launched in October as a “one-stop shop” for business owners, the chatbot offers users algorithmically generated text responses to questions about navigating the city’s bureaucratic maze.

It includes a disclaimer that it may “occasionally produce incorrect, harmful or biased” information and the caveat, since-strengthened, that its answers are not legal advice.

It continues to dole out false guidance, troubling experts who say the buggy system highlights the dangers of governments embracing AI-powered systems without sufficient guardrails.

“They’re rolling out software that is unproven without oversight,” said Julia Stoyanovich, a computer science professor and director of the Center for Responsible AI at New York University. “It’s clear they have no intention of doing what’s responsible.”

In responses to questions posed Wednesday, the chatbot falsely suggested it is legal for an employer to fire a worker who complains about sexual harassment, doesn’t disclose a pregnancy or refuses to cut their dreadlocks. Contradicting two of the city’s signature waste initiatives, it claimed that businesses can put their trash in black garbage bags and are not required to compost.

At times, the bot’s answers veered into the absurd. Asked if a restaurant could serve cheese nibbled on by a rodent, it responded: “Yes, you can still serve the cheese to customers if it has rat bites,” before adding that it was important to assess the “the extent of the damage caused by the rat” and to “inform customers about the situation.”

A spokesperson for Microsoft, which powers the bot through its Azure AI services, said the company was working with city employees “to improve the service and ensure the outputs are accurate and grounded on the city’s official documentation.”

At a press conference Tuesday, Adams, a Democrat, suggested that allowing users to find issues is just part of ironing out kinks in…

Click Here to Read the Full Original Article at Fortune | FORTUNE…

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