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AI and Its Threat to Authenticity

3 May 2023
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AI and Its Threat to Authenticity

Last week, I read an article about a German magazine, Die Aktuelle, which claimed to have conducted the “first interview” with Michael Schumacher since his skiing accident in December 2013.

Shockingly, it turned out that the story was AI-generated. The magazine’s publisher apologised, and the editor was sacked.

As the director of a digital marketing agency that creates online content, I find the subject of AI a fascinating one. It’s been creeping into our industry for the past couple of years, but the technology has now advanced to the point where it’s proving itself to be an efficient method for producing content.

The Schumacher story was just one of many worrying articles I read this month alone, but the particularly deceptive nature of this story got me thinking about whether AI can ever be used to produce authentic content.

Visual content

Sky News recently covered the backlash from artists about its impact on the creative arts, an article which highlighted the need for trade bodies to devise a legal framework that regulates its use.

A need for regulation was further highlighted after the artist Boris Eldagsen revealed that he used AI software to create the winning image that he submitted to the Sony World Photography Awards.

He declined the award following the stunt, and in response, the World Photography Organisation suspended their activities with him, releasing a statement that said:

“Given his actions and subsequent statement noting his deliberate attempts at misleading us, and therefore invalidating the warranties he provided, we no longer feel we are able to engage in a meaningful and constructive dialogue with him.”

The following day, Eldagsen said: “I don’t know why they behaved like this. But I have a fair idea: plainly, they feel like they were conned.” He doesn’t see AI as a “threat to creativity” but as a tool that has freed him from material boundaries and budgets.

This interaction is one that I believe we’ll see a lot of in the near future. The creator using AI to produce their content because it provides the freedom to “unlock creative potential” on a budget. Versus the consumer, who will feel misled, conned, and unable to feel like they can meaningfully engage with the creator and their product.

Written content

Content must be created with the audience in mind, and authentic content makes it easier for them to form the connection needed for them to engage with it in a way that is useful for you as a company.

Consider the logic that underpins E-E-A-T as a Google ranking factor. Exhibiting experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness throughout your content forms a bridge between a company and its audience. These qualities can help to establish an authentic positive reputation which tells the consumer that this is the company they should choose, thus helping leads convert into sales.

But what if your content is AI generated? It may be that AI can create the appearance of a genuine E-E-A-T article, but if you’re not the one writing it, then how can your content embody its qualities?

The absence of authenticity here is a concern. If your audience penetrates the illusion, it will likely force them to question whether your company possesses any of these qualities at all. If this is the image you are putting out to the world, how can you hope to convert leads into sales?

Audio content

Even if the consumer knows that your product is AI generated, the fact that it’s not authentic still makes it harder for the consumer to connect with it to the point of sale.

You may have recently heard the AI-created song which cloned the voices of Drake and The Weeknd. The song was so realistic that one listener commented: “We really are in a new era … can’t even tell what’s legit or fake anymore.”

This is not new, of course. In 2021, AI software was used to create “new” songs by Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and Jim Morrison. As a fan of their music, I have to say, I quite enjoyed them.

But it’s the issue of authenticity here that reverberates in my ear. While I enjoyed the AI-generated songs from 2021, I didn’t develop a deep connection with them because I knew the artists didn’t create them. They were fake, not legitimate, and I didn’t even consider whether purchasing them was an option.

The importance of authenticity

We live in a world where living your true self, compassion and high moral fibre are at the core of the socio-political debate. The rhetoric surrounding morality has greatly influenced how companies market themselves, but it’s a delicate path to tread.

In 2022 we saw companies criticised for publicly supporting pride month in the West but not in the Middle East. We’ve also seen a lot of attention over the years given to fake reviews and the action taken by the government to clamp down on the practice.

When a company is perceived as inauthentic, the lack of sincerity is latched upon by vocal advocates, and it doesn’t take much, or long, for a tarnished reputation to take hold.

This is what we will see with AI-generated content. It will hold no authority or meaning, and accusations of being fake, conning and misleading the consumer will damage the creator’s reputation.

Will Google penalise AI-generated content? 

From what we know, Google is not penalising AI-generated content. This may be because they can’t detect it or because they are developing their own software to create content. But if it is seen to undermine E-E-A-T as a ranking factor, it could be a matter of time before they turn on it.

If that happens, the companies using it most intensely will feel the most significant impact in their SERPS.

Ultimately, it will depend on whether AI-generated content can complement Google’s mission statement: “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

If Google decides that AI-generated content benefits this mission, then AI will be the future and the importance of authenticity will be reduced to ashes.

For now, if you’re considering whether to use AI software to create your content, then you will have to decide between what is right and what is easy. Using AI software will save you time and money, but it will come at the expense of the benefits that come with authenticity.

Content marketing

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