Google Announces AI-Based Plan to Take Down the Journalism Industry

Google Announces AI-Based Plan to Take Down the Journalism Industry

Remember how Google took “don’t be evil” out of its code of behavior in 2018? Recently, it has been living up to that elimination. This week at its annual I/O conference in San Francisco, the search giant finally unveiled its vision for AI-integrated search, which apparently entails cutting off digital publishers at the knees.

Google’s new AI-powered search interface, termed “Search Generative Experience,” or SGE for short, includes a feature called “AI Snapshot.” Essentially, it is a massive top-of-page summary feature.

Ask, for instance, “Why is sourdough bread still so popular?” — one of the examples Google used in their presentation — and Google will provide a large language model (LLM) -generated summary before the blue links that we’re all familiar with. We speculate snapshot.

The Verge’s David Pierce explains –

“Google’s normal search results load almost immediately.”

“Above them, a rectangular orange section pulses and glows and shows the phrase ‘Generative AI is experimental.’ A few seconds later, the glowing is replaced by an AI-generated summary: a few paragraphs detailing how good sourdough tastes, the upsides of its prebiotic abilities, and more.”

“To the right, there are three links to sites with information that Reid says ‘corroborates’ what’s in the summary.”

Obviously, this search format, in which Google employs AI technology to regurgitate the internet back to users, is radically different from the current search-enabled internet. Currently, a Google search for “why is sourdough bread still so popular?” will yield a more familiar result: a featured excerpt from the website that won the SEO race (in this instance, British Baker), followed by a series of blue links.

At first inspection, the modification may appear relatively benign. Frequently, all that web users want is a brief summary or excerpt of something. In April, Google hosted approximately 91% of all search traffic, according to data from SimilarWeb. Therefore, it is fair to state that Google is synonymous with the internet.

Google Announces AI-Based Plan
Google Announces AI-Based Plan

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And the Internet is not a predetermined, ethereal substance like air or water. The Internet is a marketplace, and Google is its monarch. How will publishers continue to monetize their work if Google’s AI is going to shred original work and provide a distilled version of it to users on a massive scale, without ever connecting them to the original work?

James Vincent of The Verge tweeted that Google has revealed its vision for incorporating AI into search. “The quick answer: it’s going to gobble up the open web and then summarize/rewrite/regurgitate it (pick the adjective that reflects your level of disquiet) in a shiny Google UI.”

Research indicates that information consumers rarely navigate to the second page of search results, much less the bottom of the page. And to make matters worse, it’s not as if Google is stealing views from its longstanding information merchants by employing an army of human content writers to produce summaries.

Google’s new search interface, which is built on a model that has already been trained by boatloads upon boatloads of unpaid-for human output, will appear to be consuming even more human-made content and spitting it back out to information-seekers, all the while siphoning valuable clicks away from the publishers that are actually reporting, curating, and holding powerful interests like Google accountable.

It is currently unknown whether or how Google will compensate these publishers. In an email, a Google spokesperson explained that “we’re introducing this new generative AI experience as an experiment in Search Labs to help us iterate and improve while incorporating feedback from users and other stakeholders.”

“As we experiment with new LLM-powered capabilities in Search, we’ll continue to prioritize approaches that will allow us to send valuable traffic to a wide range of creators and support a healthy, open web,” the spokesperson added.

When asked whether the company intends to compensate publishers for any AI-regurgitated content, Google did not provide a clear answer. “We don’t have plans to share on this, but we’ll continue to work with the broader ecosystem,” the spokesperson told.

However, publishers are extremely dubious of these alterations. RPG Site owner Alex Donaldson wrote –

“If this actually works and is implemented in a firm way, this is literally the end of the business model for vast swathes of digital media lol.”

Google has a number of concerns to answer here, not the least of which is the fact that AI systems, including Google’s, frequently spew false information. The Silicon Valley titan has long asserted that its mission is to increase information accessibility.

SGE, on the other hand, appears to have an entirely different objective, if the company does not find a way to compensate publishers for the labor it will be gleaning from journalists, the consequences for the public’s actual access to information could be disastrous.

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