In a bid to protect their valuable content, leading media houses in India have initiated measures to block OpenAI’s web scanning tool to protect their news websites from content piracy.
Over the past three weeks, four prominent media groups - the Times Group, HT Media, The Hindu Group, and the Dainik Bhaskar Group have blocked OpenAI’s web crawler, known as ‘GPTBot’ on their entire online news offerings. Top officials from these groups have confirmed this development.
Some other news publishers are contemplating similar action in the coming days.
This move follows in the footsteps of renowned international publications such as CNN, The New York Times, The Guardian, and Reuters, which recently undertook similar steps to fend off GPTBot, OpenAI’s web crawler introduced on August 8.
At the centre of this issue stands ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence (AI) application developed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI. ChatGPT relies on Large Language Models (LLMs) and consumes vast amounts of data and text to quickly generate coherent sentences. However, it has come under fire for potentially using unlicensed content from news and other websites to train its LLMs.
Sujata Gupta, Secretary General of the Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA), said, “While some DNPA members have already blocked access to GPTBot, others are actively exploring their options. Some publishers are contemplating revising their Terms of Service to restrict any use of their content without prior consent for AI development—a strategy adopted by many global news publishers.”
Originality.ai, a plagiarism tracker, reports that over 10 percent of news websites worldwide have blocked OpenAI’s web crawler within weeks of its launch.
Revenue Loss Concerns
Beyond content protection, ChatGPT and similar AI tools from other companies are being held responsible for a decline in referral traffic to news websites through Google Search.
Digital revenue for news publishers has faced a decline in recent months due to various factors, including reduced news consumption and declining mobile phone sales. Generative AI is exacerbating this revenue challenge, as users are increasingly avoiding clicking on news links. Rather, they turn to AI chatbots for their queries, which has further eroded Digital publishers’ revenues.
Websites generate revenue when users visit their sites and click on the ads displayed on their webpages. A publisher lamented, “About 90 percent of news consumers no longer click on news links. With AI integration in Google Search, users will simply read the gist provided by Google or headlines of news. Our websites could lose all referral traffic, leaving us with no Digital revenue. How can we continue to invest in journalism and news production under such circumstances?”
The Growing Giants
OpenAI, which rolled out ChatGPT in November 2022, has swiftly grown into a behemoth. According to international media reports, OpenAI is currently valued at $30 billion, despite not disclosing revenue figures.
News publishers worldwide fear that OpenAI may reap substantial revenues in the future by leveraging ChatGPT with their content, while neglecting to share any of these earnings with news publishers who invest heavily in content production.