News publishers wary of Microsoft’s Bing chatbot’s media diet

1 year ago

The OpenAI tool ChatGPT, released by the startup in November, is known to plagiarize or only slightly alter people’s writing. Some major US public school systems, including New York School, have banned the use of ChatGPT. Bing uses a Microsoft AI system called Prometheus, which the company says is based on OpenAI ChatGPT and fine-tuned to provide users with more secure and timely search results.

Asked at a Microsoft media event this week about a new Bing search that could potentially plagiarize the work of creators, Yusuf Mehdi, CMO for the consumer services company, said the company is “very concerned about being able to return traffic to content creators.” The links that the Bing chatbot includes at the end of each response are meant to “make it easier for people to get in and out of these sites,” he said. Microsoft’s Rawlston declined to share how many early testers followed those citation links to go to the source of the information.

Now publishers are weighing whether to strike back at Microsoft. A friendly partner who supported them in Congress by helping them basically fight the search giant, Google is now leading the race to bring chat technology to search.

“Unless there is a special agreement, the income from news publications is simply not returned. And this is very problematic for our industry,” says Daniel Coffey, executive vice president and general counsel of News Media Alliance, a trade group of more than 2,000 print and online publications worldwide, including New York Times And Wall Street Magazine. WIRED’s parent Condé Nast is also a member of the group.

In the absence of any compensation, Coffey calls the attribution of the Bing chatbot “less than stellar in our taste.” When asked if members had considered requiring Bing to stop using their content in new search, she replied that questions would be raised on that topic.

Other news trading groups are also keeping a close eye on search chatbots. “We are very concerned about the role that this disruptive technology, which could benefit, could play in the exponential spread of misinformation,” says Paul Deegan, president and CEO of trade organization News Media Canada. “Real journalism costs real money, and it’s in the best interests of major tech platforms to have fair content licensing agreements with news publishers.”

Google and Microsoft are paying some publishers to distribute their content across various apps and features, including select search results in accordance with the requirements of European law. Microsoft’s MSN web portal remains a major driver of traffic and license sales for some publishers, and Google is pushing a licensing regime it calls News Showcase that delivers stories to Google News and the company’s Discover news app.

But a new chatbot offered by Bing, and a bot in development called Bard by Google, offer much more than the links, short previews, and thumbnails common on tech platforms. They are being promoted as a way to use AI to immerse users in a conversation that can provide them with the information they need quickly, smoothly, and without having to leave the chat window. If web users spend more time with bots and click less links, publishers could be cut off from selling subscriptions, ads, and recommendations.

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