Jun 10, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Congress wants Scarlett Johansson to testify on OpenAI dispute

Scarlett Johansson, wearing a white dress, surrounded by men in tuxedos.

Scarlett Johansson at the White House correspondence dinner on April 27. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

A House committee that oversees technology and privacy is seeking testimony from actress Scarlett Johansson about her allegations that ChatGPT 4.0's voice sounds "eerily similar" to her own.

Why it matters: Lawmakers are scrambling to oversee and regulate rapidly developing AI technology amid concerns about privacy, misinformation and intellectual property rights.

Driving the news: In a letter released on Monday, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), chair of the House oversight subcommittee on cybersecurity, invited Johansson to testify before the panel.

  • Mace's letter said the hearing would be scheduled for July 9, but her office told Axios that Johansson was unable to appear on that date and will likely be available in October.
  • The hearing "will address the broader issues surrounding the uses and abuses of deepfake technology," Mace's office said.

What she's saying: "You recently expressed concerns via social media about the resemblance between your own voice and that of the 'Sky' chatbot," Mace wrote in the letter.

  • Mace said the hearing would "provide a platform for you to share those concerns with House Members, and to inform the broader public debate concerning deepfakes."

Zoom in: Johansson, who famously voiced an AI program in the 2013 film "Her," said in a statement last month that she received an offer from OpenAI CEO Sam Altman in September to voice his ChatGPT 4.0 system.

  • "After much consideration and for personal reasons, I declined the offer," she said, but "nine months later, my friends, family and the general public all noted how much the newest system named 'Sky' sounded like me."
  • Johansson said Altman reached out asking her to reconsider two days before Sky went live. She said she then hired lawyers who got Altman to take down the voice.

The other side: Altman said in a statement that the voice "is not Scarlett Johansson's, and it was never intended to resemble hers," saying the voice actor was cast before any outreach to Johansson.

  • The Washington Post reported that an actress hired last June "sounds identical to the AI-generated Sky voice," citing audio recordings.
  • Altman said Sky was paused "out of respect for Ms. Johansson."
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