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How History Proves AI Generated Content Will Ruin Your Business



Written By Josh Tyler, CEO @ Walk Big Media

If you’re considering publishing AI spun content on your website, think again. All of this has happened before and all of it will happen again.

In the early 2000s the internet was undergoing massive changes and people were still figuring out what worked. Early on some less reputable netizens discovered that if they straight up stole content (using an automated bot process called “scraping”) from other publishers and republished it as their own, it would be as successful as going out and hiring humans to write something new.

It took awhile for the law to catch up with what they were doing and it took awhile for the search engines of the day to figure it out too. So, at first it worked. It worked really well.

At the time I was running a media company called CINEMA BLEND and was just getting going with my current entertainment news site GIANT FREAKIN ROBOT going. One morning I woke up to discover that our content was no longer ranking very well on search engines and had, instead, been totally replaced by a website which copied our site and stole all of our carefully written words.

It took days to sort things out and in that time the thieves, who were never punished, made off with hundreds or maybe even thousands of ad dollars, profiting off what was legally ours.

Scrapers ruled the internet for a while. It didn’t last. Eventually both the law and the search engines of the day (Yahoo was huge back then) caught on and the scrapers were put out of business. They’re still around, in one form or another, but only as internet cellar dwellers kept under control by better algorithms that have long since gotten wise to their methods.

Smash cut to 2023 when AI generated content is taking the world by storm. Publishers and marketers alike are beginning to experiment with using it as a replacement for writers. Just like scraped content, AI generated content is easier, it’s cheaper, and it’s faster than real writers. It’s also stolen.

While modern AI companies tout their bot’s responses as some sort of wholly original thought generated by an ethereal computer mind, as users dig into it they’re starting to discover that’s not what it is at all.

Much of the content being written by AI’s is plagiarized. Not in the traditional sense where they’re stealing whole sentences, but more in a tangential sense where it takes your sentence and then runs parallel to it. Rather than coming up with something new, most of the time what AI bots are doing is taking something someone else did and then changing it just enough to make it seem like the AI came up with it on its own.

In the world of human writers taking someone’s content, changing a few words, and then publishing it as your own has already been clearly established both as plagiarism and as totally illegal. AI is doing nothing different than plagiarists or those early content scrapers, it’s just gotten a bit more sneaky and sophisticated about it.

If you’re a prolific internet writer try it out. Start asking AI questions about things you’ve written in the past and see if you don’t start to recognize some of the responses.

I’ve been writing on the internet for over 20 years and I’ve already seen AI content that’s clearly cribbing at least part of its answers from things I’ve previously written.

It’s not solely text AI is stealing from humans. It’s stealing images too. The process used is much the same, an existing image is taken and then modified or merged with other images to create something new. It’s a bit more of a legal gray area where images are concerned than text, but precedent is about to be established. Getty Images is already suing Midjourney, an image generating AI which has recently risen to prominence. Until the plagiarism problem is fixed (and it doesn’t seem like it’ll be fixed any time soon), you’ll never see AI generated content on any of my websites. Experience has already taught me what AI never can. Sure, it’s tempting to use AI to write that list of the best office chairs for you and it might even work for a while, but just like the scraped content of the early 2000s, in the end it’s sure to bite you where you sit.