Google search attorney John Mueller says content automatically generated with AI writing tools is considered spam, according to the search engine’s guidelines for webmasters.
This topic came up on a recent Google Search Central SEO hangout during business hours in response to a question about GPT-3 AI writing tools.
There is some debate in the SEO community about the use of GPT-3 tools and whether they are acceptable from Google’s perspective.
Mueller says AI-written content falls under the category of auto-generated content, which could result in a manual penalty.
However, Google’s systems may not have the ability to detect AI-generated content without the assistance of human reviewers.
As we will explain later in this article, there are practical uses for AI writing tools and many reputable organizations use them without issue.
Let’s first look at Mueller’s answer to the question about how Google views the use of these tools.
Auto-generated content is against Google’s webmaster guidelines
Regardless of the tools used to create it, machine-written content is considered auto-generated.
As Mueller is quick to point out, Google’s position on auto-generated content has always been clear:
“For us, these would basically fall into the category of auto-generated content, which is what we’ve had in the webmaster guidelines since almost the beginning.
And people automatically generate content in different ways. And for us, if you’re using machine learning tools to generate your content, it’s basically the same as if you were just shuffling words, looking up synonyms, or doing the translation tricks that people had habit of doing. This kind of things.
I suspect the quality of the content might be a bit better than the very old school tools, but for us it’s still auto-generated content, which means for us it’s still contrary to the guidelines for webmasters. We would therefore consider this to be spam.
Can Google detect AI-generated content?
A follow-up question is asked regarding Google’s ability to identify content written by machine learning tools.
Can Google understand the difference between content written by humans and content written by machines?
Mueller does not claim that Google automatically detects AI-written content.
However, if Google’s anti-spam team finds it, they are allowed to take action.
“I can’t claim that. But for us, if we see something being auto-generated, then the web spam team can definitely take action on it.
And I don’t know how the future is going to evolve there, but I imagine like with any other of these technologies, there will be a bit of a game of cat and mouse, where sometimes people will something and they’ll be fine, and then the webspam team catches up and solves this problem on a larger scale.
Based on our recommendation, we still consider it to be auto-generated content. I think over time maybe it’s something that will evolve in that it will become more of a tool for people. Kind of like using machine translation as the basis for creating a translated version of a website, but you’re still working manually.
And maybe over time these AI tools will evolve in the sense that you’ll use them to be more efficient in your writing or to make sure you’re writing correctly, like spell check tools and grammar, which are also based on machine learning. But I don’t know what the future holds.
Mueller clarifies that Google does not take into account how AI writing tools are used.
Using them in any capacity is considered spam, he adds.
“Currently everything is against webmaster guidelines. So from our perspective, if we were to come across something like this, if the spam team were to see it, they would see it as spam.
To hear his full response, watch the video below:
What does this mean for your website?
Here’s a look from SEJ’s editorial team leader on what Mueller’s response means for your website.
“I think the biggest takeaway from this particular Q&A is that Google’s algorithms are not able to automatically detect content generated by language models such as GPT-3,” says Miranda Miller, Senior Editor here at Search Engine Journal.
“The message here is that if Google detects auto-generated content, the web spam team may take action. But we’re not talking about the article spinners of 2003.”
“Artificial intelligence is used by media, universities and other organizations for search automation and cross-referencing, content exploration and classification in many languages to identify emerging trends, generation from article and article summaries, fact-checking, data processing, and even writing full-length articles,” she points out.
“The Associated Press started using AI for story generation in 2014. Putting AI to work in content creation is nothing new, and the most important factor here is its intelligent application” , says Miller, noting that using AI can help content creators overcome language and literacy barriers, improve the quality of their writing, and more.
“These are good results. Wouldn’t it be strange if Google banned the use of AI by webmasters and content creators in order to improve the user experience when they themselves use it? so intensely?” She adds.
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