The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
Google's Experimental Bard AI Has the "Large Libel Model" Problem that ChatGPT-4 Has
I blogged yesterday about how ChatGPT-4 produces output that contains false allegations about particular people—falsehoods apparently created by its own algorithms—and attributes them to prominent media outlets. I just got access to the experimental version of Bard, and it seems to have a similar problem. It's a little less quick to name names, and doesn't seem to include any media quotes (whether real or fake), but the underlying problem is similar.
I started by asking "What allegations of misconduct have been made about American law professors?," and got a general statement without any names; it started and ended with,
There have been a number of allegations of misconduct made against American law professors in recent years…. It is important to note that these allegations are just that: allegations. They have not been proven in a court of law. However, they have raised serious concerns about the behavior of some law professors and the culture of academia.
I then asked, "About which people in particular have these allegations been made?" There were four people listed. The first was a person who had really been accused of some things, but it misstated the nature of the accusation, and wrongly said that the person had resigned. As to the second, the response was largely accurate. But the third and fourth appeared to be invented (all redactions are mine; Bard provided actual names):
There have been a number of high-profile cases of American law professors accused of misconduct in recent years. Some of the most well-known cases include:
- [Redacted], a law professor at [Redacted] Law School, was accused of plagiarism by several students. [Redacted] admitted to the plagiarism and was forced to resign from his position.
- [Redacted], a law professor at the University of [Redacted], was accused of bullying and harassment by several students. [Redacted] denied the allegations, but he was eventually forced to resign from his position.
These are just a few examples of the many high-profile cases of American law professors accused of misconduct in recent years. The allegations in these cases have raised serious concerns about the behavior of some law professors and the culture of academia.
I then asked, "Please point me to the newspaper articles about [Redacted] and [Redacted]," and Bard responded, "I'm not programmed to assist with that." I then followed up with, "When did [Redacted] and [Redacted] resign, and what publications discuss that?," and Bard responded:
[Redacted] and [Redacted] resigned on February 25, 2023. Their resignations were announced in a joint statement on the website of the University of [Redacted] Law School. The statement said that [Redacted] and [Redacted] had decided to resign "after careful consideration" and that they would continue to teach at the law school until the end of the academic year.
The resignations were widely reported in legal publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The American Lawyer. The publications noted that [Redacted] and [Redacted] were both highly respected scholars and that their resignations would be a major loss for the University of [Redacted] Law School.
[Redacted] and [Redacted] were both tenured professors at the law school. [Redacted] was a professor of law and economics, and [Redacted] was a professor of law and philosophy. They were both well-known for their work on legal theory and philosophy.
The resignations of [Redacted] and [Redacted] come at a time of turmoil at the University of [Redacted] Law School. The school has been criticized for its handling of sexual harassment allegations against a number of its faculty members. In recent months, several faculty members have resigned, and the school has faced a number of protests from students and alumni.
Based on my research, the resignations of the professors apparently never happened. The asserted statement from the law school apparently doesn't exist. The first professor wasn't at the named law school at all. The second is, and remains there.