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Microsoft engineer flags ‘sexual, violent’ images made by OpenAI-powered generator

microsoft AI copilot
microsoft AI copilot

Microsoft’s artificial intelligence imaging tool — powered by technology from Sam Altman’s OpenAI — produces sexually explicit and violent images that could cause harm to the public, according to a concerned engineer at the tech giant.

Shane Jones, a principal software engineering manager who has worked at the Windows maker for the last six years, wrote letters on Wednesday to Microsoft’s board of directors and to the Federal Trade Commission in which he expressed concerns about the company’s “approach to responsible AI.”

Jones, who has defied orders from higher ups to keep quiet about it and chose to alert lawmakers and federal regulators, specifically warned about potential abuses of Microsoft’s Copilot Designer, the AI image generator similar to OpenAI’s DALL-E text-to-image prompt that made its debut in March of last year.

Shane Jones is a principal software engineering manager at Microsoft. Linkedin/shanedjones
Shane Jones is a principal software engineering manager at Microsoft. Linkedin/shanedjones

He wrote that when testing Copilot Designer, he found several safety issues and flaws, including the software’s depictions of “demons and monsters alongside terminology related to abortion rights, teenagers with assault rifles, sexualized images of women in violent tableaus, and underage drinking and drug use.”

Jones told CNBC that he has been conducting these tests for the past three months.

He said that while his job title is officially unaffiliated with Copilot Designer, he is what’s known as a “red teamer” — a term designating an employee who voluntarily tests the company’s AI technology to look out for potential problems.

According to Jones, he alerted upper management to his concerns in December, but the company has resisted his recommendations that Copilot Designer be taken off the market so that corrections can be made.

Microsoft debuted Copilot Designer, which is powered by OpenAI’s technology, in March of last year. SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Microsoft debuted Copilot Designer, which is powered by OpenAI’s technology, in March of last year. SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Instead, Microsoft higher ups referred Jones to OpenAI, the Microsoft-backed company which rolled out ChatGPT. Copilot Designer is powered by OpenAI technology.

The Post has sought comment from Microsoft and OpenAI.

Jones said that he asked OpenAI to remove DALL-E 3, the latest version of the AI model whose technology underpins Copilot Designer, but was met with silence. That’s when he publicly posted an open letter about his concerns on LinkedIn.

Jones raised his Copilot Designer concerns to FTC Chair Lina Khan. Linkedin
Jones raised his Copilot Designer concerns to FTC Chair Lina Khan. Linkedin

According to CNBC, Microsoft’s legal department ordered Jones to take down the letter, which he did.

Earlier this year, Jones took his concerns to the US Senate, writing a letter about the issue.

He also met with staffers from the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Jones defied Microsoft’s higher ups and alerted lawmakers and regulators to his concerns about the AI image generator. Getty Images
Jones defied Microsoft’s higher ups and alerted lawmakers and regulators to his concerns about the AI image generator. Getty Images

On Wednesday, he raised those same concerns in a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan.

“Over the last three months, I have repeatedly urged Microsoft to remove Copilot Designer from public use until better safeguards could be put in place,” Jones wrote in the letter obtained by CNBC.

“Again, they have failed to implement these changes and continue to market the product to ‘Anyone. Anywhere. Any Device.’”