Google Reportedly Paying Digital Publishers To Test Generative AI Platform To Write Articles |

Google Reportedly Paying Digital Publishers To Test Generative AI Platform To Write Articles

Reports of a private program launched by Google earlier this year that provides digital news outlets with a generative AI platform aimed at testing its ability to create AI-assisted content in exchange for thousands of dollars has again put the search giant under scrutiny.

According to Adweek, the publishers included in the program are required to produce three articles per day, one newsletter a week and one marketing campaign a month using the platform, which is still in beta testing. In exchange, Google pays the outlets a monthly stipend over the agreed 12-month testing period which equals out to “five-figure sums.” Google also pulls analytics and feedback from the platform as it is in use.

The operation as described evokes the travesty that was Facebook’s “pivot to video” push back in 2015-16 where the social media giant brokered deals with digital publishers that amounted to millions of dollars to incentivize them into prioritizing video content published to the platform over written work. That resulted in the gutting of several newsrooms and multiple outlets outright collapsing once it was revealed that Facebook artificially inflated viewership metrics by anywhere from 150 to 900 percent.

The platform operates in a very similar fashion to other generative AI models that continue to be points of discussion, frustration and, in some cases, legal battles. It allows publishers to use its generative AI tool to summarize articles published by websites that they believe are relevant to their coverage focus and audience and produce articles derived from those works. The program doesn’t require that participating publishers mark content produced via the platform as AI-assisted and the only human participation in the publishing process is checking AI-generated summaries for accuracy prior to publication.

None of the websites whose original content is scrubbed and summarized using the platform provided consent for their work to be utilized in such fashion nor were they made aware that their work was being used.

Adweek gained access to documents outlining the program and the platform, which is part of the search giant’s Google News Initiative. While that program launched with the stated purpose of aiding digital publishers through new technology and tools, news of this unreleased platform is the latest example of how the GNI and Google itself undermine digital media companies.

The quality of Google search results continues to worsen as the ebb and flow of SEO spam dominates query responses despite ongoing attempts by Google and other search engines to remove it. A study conducted by researchers from Leipzig University, Bauhaus-University Weimar and the Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence released earlier this year pointed out such issues, stating that “search engines seem to lose the cat-and-mouse game that is SEO spam.”

This issue makes it harder for digital publishers to generate revenue by using Google to drive traffic to their work. The onset of AI-driven content farms that operate in a similar fashion to how this new Google program does as described by Adweek’s report that produce SEO spam has made this process even harder. Knowing the challenges these issues present and watching the copious amount of layoffs in digital media in recent years along with major outlets such as Vice shutting down entirely, news of Google producing a generative AI-driven platform focused on new production threw up some red flags.

“I think this calls into question the mission of GNI,” Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, told Adweek. “It’s hard to argue that stealing people’s work supports the mission of the news. This is not adding any new information to the mix.”

Google pushed back on the assertion that the program undermines digital publishers in a statement to Adweek, saying “These tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles.”

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