Unbalanced Information Diet : Protecting the Facts / Access to News Erodes as AI Provides ‘Answers’

Reuters file photo
Google logo and AI Artificial Intelligence words are seen in this illustration taken, May 4, 2023.

This is the fifth and final installment in a series examining situations in which conventional laws and ethics can no longer be relied on in the digital world, and exploring possible solutions.

As U.S. information technology giants vie to develop generative AI, research firm Gartner, Inc. released a prediction in February, saying, “By 2026, traditional search engine volume will drop 25%, with search marketing losing market share to AI chatbots and other virtual agents.”

When keywords are entered into Google and other search engines, the titles of related websites appear. Users access one or more at their own choice. But generative AI is now changing this typical behavior.

Microsoft Corp. introduced an AI chatbot to its Bing search engine site in February 2023. In May the same year, Google also started using generative AI on its search engine site. When users of these sites enter keywords related to what they want to know, generative AI provides “answers” in a few seconds. Users do not need to access multiple websites.

“When people start to see answers created by generative AI, the opportunities for them to accidently encounter new information will significantly decrease,” said Go Sugihara, chief executive officer of ATARA, LLC, a Yokohama-based consulting company well-versed in matters concerning IT giants.

Social media users also are losing their chances to get various types of information. They are guided by platform companies to linger for a long time in their services, and as a result the number of times they access and look at outside news websites declines.

A January report from Britain’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism said traffic to news sites from Facebook fell 48% in 2023, with traffic from X (formerly Twitter) declining by 27%. These figures were taken from data sourced from a U.S. analytics provider.

Platform businesses want to raise their profits by getting users to stay on social media longer and look at ads, so they make the messages that would guide users to outside news sites less noticeable. Opportunities for users to access various information has been decreasing without their knowledge.

Report author Nic Newman said that although social media has been a means to transmit information to those who are not particularly interested in news, people are being completely cut off from news.

“Resistance” to fake information is nurtured by absorbing a variety of information in a well-balanced manner. But opportunities to do so have rapidly been lost.