Microsoft is in talks with publishers about how they can control which of their content is used to inform responses given by its new Bing artificial intelligence chatbot. The company said conversations are just beginning, but that it intends to update technical guidelines for publishers as needed in the months ahead.
Microsoft’s chatbot feature – launched in “preview” mode within its Bing search engine earlier this month – promises to provide direct answers to users’ questions using generative AI, rather than directing them to third-party sites.
Publishers have expressed concerns that the chatbot, and others like it, could threaten their business models if they result in search engines directing less traffic to their sites. They’ve also bemoaned a lack of clarity from Microsoft and other generative AI companies about how their content is being used to inform the responses given by chatbots, whether publishers can prevent chatbots from weaving their content and information into responses, and – ultimately – if it’s even worth trying to stop them.
A Microsoft spokesperson told Toolkits that Bing’s chat function only draws from content that publishers have opted to make visible to it, but that Microsoft is “in conversation with publishers and will be updating technical guidelines as needed.”
The spokesperson declined to comment on whether all publisher content that’s made accessible to Bing’s crawlers is currently eligible to appear in chatbot responses, however, or whether Microsoft will enable publishers to control what information collected by the company’s crawlers might be surfaced in chatbot responses specifically. “As the new Bing experience is currently in preview these conversations are beginning and we’ll have more to share over time,” the spokesperson said.
Publishing executives say they’re looking for clarity about how their content is being used by AI chatbots, including whether chatbots are pulling information from paywalled content. Publishing trade groups are raising concerns on behalf of their members, as well. “Unless there’s a specific agreement in place, there’s just really no revenue coming back to news publications. And it is highly problematic for our industry,” Danielle Coffey, executive vice president and general counsel at News Media Alliance told Wired.
In an interview with The Verge, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella acknowledged that publishers would likely attempt to limit Bing’s access to their content if Microsoft ceases sending traffic to their sites or otherwise uses their content in a way that undermines their business models.
“The search category is about fair use so we can generate traffic back to publishers… Our bots are not going to be allowed to crawl if we are not driving traffic,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day I don’t think any of this can be done without a framework of law that governs it, and ultimately financial incentives that benefit [publishers].”