Google Search ranks AI spam above original reporting in news results

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For example, I searched “competing approaches Google OpenAI” and saw a piece from TechCrunch at the top of Google News. Below that were articles from The Atlantic and Bloomberg comparing rival companies’ approaches to AI development. But then, the fourth article to appear for that search, just below these more reputable websites, was another Scirus #blog piece that pretty much copied the TechCrunch article in the first place.

As reported by 404 Media in January, AI-powered articles for basic queries appeared several times in Google News results at the beginning of the year. Two months later, Google announced significant changes to its algorithms and new spam policies as part of an effort to improve search results. And by the end of April, Google shared that major adjustments to remove unhelpful results from its search engine ranking system were finished. “As of April 19, we have completed implementing these changes. You will now see 45 percent less low-quality, inauthentic content in search results, while we expected a 40 percent improvement in this work,” Elizabeth Tucker, director of product management at Google, wrote in a blog post.

Despite the changes, AI-assisted spam content remains an ongoing, prevalent problem for Google News.

“This problem is very common on Google right now, and it’s hard to answer why it’s happening,” says Lily Ray, senior director of search engine optimization at marketing agency Emsiv. “Some of our clients have said, ‘Oh, they took our article and reworked it with AI. It looks exactly like what we wrote in our original content, but it’s just a crapshoot, AI-rewritten version.'”

At first glance, it was clear to me that some of the illustrations for Cyrus’s blogs were generated by AI, based on the figures’ slanted eyes and other distorted physical features — clear signs of an AI attempt to represent the human body.

Now, was the text of our article rewritten using AI? I contacted the person behind the blog to find out how they created it and received confirmation via email that an Italian marketing agency created the blog. They claim they used an AI tool as part of the writing process. “Regarding your concerns about plagiarism, we can assure you that our content creation process involves AI tools that analyze and synthesize information from various sources while always respecting intellectual property,” someone using the name Daniel Cyrus wrote over email.

They point to the single hyperlink at the bottom of the lifted article as sufficient attribution. Better than nothing, but a link that doesn’t even mention the name of the publication is not an adequate defense against plagiarism. The person also claims that the goal of the website is not to get clicks from Google’s search engine, but to test AI algorithms in multiple languages.

When reached over email for response, Google declined to comment about Cyrus. “We don’t comment on specific websites, but our updated spam policies prohibit the creation of low-value, inauthentic content at scale for the purpose of ranking well on Google,” says Google spokesperson Meghan Farnsworth. “We take action globally on sites that don’t comply with our policies.” (Farnsworth is a former WIRED employee.)

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