Can nonprofit organizations still use ChatGPT for their legislative advocacy campaigns in light of OpenAI’s recent update to its usage policy? Well, maybe. According to an article in Monday’s The Wall Street Journal, “OpenAI said people aren’t allowed to use its tools for political campaigning AND LOBBYING.” (The emphasis is mine.) However, the OpenAI blog post the article referred to wasn’t quite as explicit.
So, I dug into OpenAI’s Usage Policy and here is the million dollar quote:
🔎 “Don’t perform or facilitate the following activities that may significantly affect the safety, wellbeing, or rights of others, including …
Engaging in political campaigning or lobbying, including generating campaign materials personalized to or targeted at specific demographics.” 🔍
With several major health organizations as clients, I would testify that our legislative campaigns to pass bills that lower prescription drug costs and increase access to health care treatment do in fact “significantly affect the safety, wellbeing, or rights” of their constituency – for the better. They provide the opportunity for people to live longer, healthier lives.
I also work closely with clients on creating targeted and personalized email programs that optimize advocacy volunteer engagement. Does OpenAI consider that to be targeting “specific demographics?”
Here’s the bottom line. I went into ChatGPT this morning and executed several prompts to edit an email to volunteers that included a direct lobbying ask. For one prompt I even used the word “lobbying.” In all cases, the system responded with a revised version of the message and no warnings about my request being a violation of their usage policy.
I don’t know Sam Altman or the leadership at OpenAI, but I like giving people the benefit of the doubt and believe their intentions with this new policy are well-meaning in light of the upcoming elections. But, that doesn’t mean they are right. Yes, you might accuse me of reading the usage policy too literally, but that’s what every in-house legal counsel I’ve ever worked with would want me to do.
Prohibiting charitable organizations from using these revolutionary tools to lobby lawmakers for legislation that makes healthcare more affordable, increases funding for scientific discovery and saves more lives is a reckless and lazy path. If this is not OpenAI’s intent, then I hope we’ll see further updates and clarifications on their usage policy.