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OpenAI's Trust and Safety Head Dave Willner Steps Down

Dave Willner, head of trust and safety at OpenAI, has transitioned to an advisory role, leaving a crucial post vacant at the AI giant during a critical period for AI regulation and safety. OpenAI has announced it is searching for a replacement.

OpenAI’s Trust and Safety Chief Steps Down

OpenAI, the influential AI firm that popularized the concept of generative AI with its ChatGPT model, is undergoing a major personnel shift. Dave Willner, the company's head of trust and safety, revealed on LinkedIn that he is leaving his role and transitioning to an advisory position. Citing the need for more time with his family, Willner’s departure comes after he held the position for a year and a half.

Willner's departure comes at a pivotal time for AI. With the surge of generative AI platforms that can rapidly produce text, images, music, and more based on simple user prompts, a host of questions about regulation and safety have emerged. In this context, trust and safety have become crucial topics.

OpenAI's president Greg Brockman is scheduled to join executives from Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Microsoft, Meta, and Amazon at the White House to endorse voluntary commitments for shared safety and transparency goals. This occurs against a backdrop of discussions concerning AI regulation in Europe and changing perspectives globally.

During his time at OpenAI, Willner saw his role grow significantly in scope and scale, especially after the launch of ChatGPT. However, the demands of the job made it increasingly difficult to balance work and family commitments.

Prior to joining OpenAI, Willner had led trust and safety teams at Facebook and Airbnb. His stint at Facebook was particularly noteworthy, as he helped draft the company's first community standards, which still inform its approach today.

Willner's departure leaves a crucial void at OpenAI. He was initially brought on to ensure that OpenAI’s image generator, DALL-E, wasn’t misused for harmful activities. However, the search for a technically-skilled replacement is now underway, with OpenAI's CTO, Mira Murati, managing the team on an interim basis.