OpenAI’s Head of Trust and Safety, Dave Willner, steps down from his role

July 22, 2023


Dave Willner, OpenAI’s Head of Trust and Safety, has announced his departure from the company. 

Citing the job’s impact on his family life, Willner made the announcement via a LinkedIn post, noting that he would remain available for advisory roles.

OpenAI revealed that Chief Technology Officer Mira Murati would temporarily oversee the team, with Willner continuing in an advisory role until the end of the year, according to Reuters.

Trust and safety teams have become intrinsic to AI development, a technology with risks likened to nuclear energy. 

OpenAI, Twitter, Google, DeepMind, Microsoft, and Meta have all fostered a strong culture of safety research to analyze AI technology’s potential risks and impacts. The task is ongoing, and impending regulation will only increase the pressure on AI governance teams. 

OpenAI recognized Willner’s contributions as instrumental to their commitment to the safe and responsible AI development. 

“We are seeking a technically-skilled lead to advance our mission, focusing on the design, development, and implementation of systems that ensure the safe use and scalable growth of our technology,” the company said in the statement.

Willner, who joined OpenAI in February 2022 following tenures at Airbnb and Facebook, cited personal reasons for his decision to step down, including wishing to spend more time with his family. 

He shared, “Anyone with young children and a super intense job can relate to that tension, I think, and these past few months have really crystallized for me that I was going to have to prioritize one or the other.” 

“That moment of clarity allowed me to settle on a decision which probably feels counterintuitive to a lot of folks but feels incredibly right for me,” Willner said.

“It ended up being a pretty easy choice to make, though not one that folks in my position often make so explicitly in public. I hope this post can serve to help normalize it.”

He continued, “I’ve moved teaching the kids to swim and ride their bikes to the top of my OKRs (objectives and key results) this summer.”

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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