HomeTech Spam, trash… trash? The latest wave of AI behind the ‘zombie Internet’

Spam, trash… trash? The latest wave of AI behind the ‘zombie Internet’

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 Spam, trash… trash? The latest wave of AI behind the 'zombie Internet'

Your email inbox is full of spam. Your mailbox is full of junk mail. Now, your web browser has its own affliction: junk.

“Slop” is what you get when material generated by artificial intelligence is placed on the web for anyone to see.

Unlike a chatbot, the chatbot is not interactive and rarely aims to answer readers’ questions or satisfy their needs.

Instead, it primarily works to create the appearance of human-created content, benefit from advertising revenue, and direct search engine attention to other sites.

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Like spam, almost no one wants to see junk, but the economics of the Internet lead to its creation anyway. AI models make it trivial to automatically generate large amounts of text or images, providing an answer to any search query imaginable, uploading endless inspiring landscapes and stories to share, and creating an army of supportive comments. If only a handful of users access the site, share the meme, or click on the hosted ads, it is worth the cost of creating it.

But like spam, its overall effect is negative: the time and effort lost by users who now have to wade through the junk to find the content they’re really looking for far outweighs the profits for the junk’s creator.

“I think having a name for this is really important, because it gives people a concise way to talk about the problem,” says developer Simon Willison, an early proponent of the term “slop.”

“Before the term ‘spam’ became widespread, it wasn’t necessarily clear to everyone that unwanted marketing messages were a bad way to behave. I hope that ‘carelessness’ has the same impact: it can make it clear to people that generating and publishing unreviewed AI-generated content is bad behavior.”

Waste is obviously most harmful when it is simply wrong. Willison pointed to an AI-generated Microsoft Travel article that listed the “Ottawa Food Bank” as a must-see attraction in the Canadian capital as a perfect example of the problem. Every once in a while, a piece of garbage is so useless that it goes viral in its own right, like the career advice article that seriously explains the punchline of a decades-old newspaper comic: “I get paid in women.”

“While the precise meaning of ‘I Get Paid in Women’ remains ambiguous, several interpretations have emerged, ranging from a humorous commentary on work-life balance to a deeper exploration of our perceived reality,” it begins the book.

AI-generated books have also become a problem. A prominent example came when amateur mushroom pickers were recently warned to avoid searching for books sold on Amazon that appeared to have been written by chatbots and contained dangerous advice for anyone hoping to distinguish a lethal mushroom from an edible one.

Image-generated trash has also flourished on Facebook, such as images of Jesus Christ with shrimps for limbs, children in plastic bottle cars, fake dream houses and Incredibly old women who claim to have baked their 122nd birthday cake get thousands of shares.

The waste generated by the images has led to strange reworkings of religious iconography. Illustration: –

Jason Koebler of the tech news site 404 Media believes the trend represents what he calls the “Zombie Internet.” The rise of trash, he says, has turned the social network into a space where “a mix of bots, humans and accounts that were once human but are no longer human mix to form a disastrous website where there is little connection social in everything.”

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Nick Clegg, president of global affairs at Meta, Facebook’s parent company, wrote in February that the social network is training its systems to identify content created by AI. “As the difference between human and synthetic content becomes blurred, people want to know where the line is,” he wrote.

The problem has begun to worry the social media industry’s main source of income: advertising agencies that pay to place ads next to content. Farhad Divecha, CEO of UK-based digital marketing agency AccuraCast, says he is now encountering cases where users mistakenly flag ads as AI-created junk when they are not.

“We’ve seen cases where people have commented that an ad was AI-generated garbage when it wasn’t,” he says, adding that it could become a problem for the social media industry if consumers “start to feel that They are being served garbage.” time”.

Addressing spam in inboxes required a huge cross-industry effort and led to a fundamental change in the nature of email. Large webmail providers like Gmail aggressively monitor their own platforms to combat spammers and are increasingly suspicious of emails arriving from untrusted email servers. They also apply complex artificial intelligence systems, largely undocumented, to try to detect spam directly, in a constant game of cat and mouse with the spammers themselves.

For slop, the future is less rosy: the world’s largest companies have gone from being forest guards to poachers. Last week, Google announced an ambitious plan to add AI-created answers to the top of some search results, with US users the first to experience a full rollout of the “AI Overviews” feature. It will also include links, but users who want to limit the answer to just a selection of links to other websites will be able to find them by clicking on “web” in the search engine, downgraded to “images”. and “maps” in the list of options.

“We added this after hearing from some that there are times when they prefer to simply see links to web pages in their search results,” wrote Danny Sullivan, the company’s search liaison.

Google says AI overviews have strong guardrails. However, elsewhere on the web, trash is spreading.

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