BBC blocks ChatGPT bot, explores Gen AI to create content

October 9, 2023

The BBC has a massive trove of news and media content but says it’s now off-limits to AI scraping bots.

The company recently announced that it had blocked both OpenAI’s ChatGPT bot as well as the Common Crawl bot from scraping its content.

The BBC joins a growing list of websites that have decided to block AI bots from using their data to train AI models. With ChatGPT recently announcing that its popular chatbot can access the internet in real-time, the BBC’s decision seemed inevitable.

If ChatGPT was allowed to scrape news content from the BBC you could ask it ‘What happened today?’ and get news reports without visiting the BBC website.

Rhodri Talfan Davies, the BBC’s Director of Nations, said in a blog post that “we do not believe the current ‘scraping’ of BBC data without our permission in order to train Gen AI models is in the public interest.”

If he’s honest, it’s probably the risk to their revenue model that is the bigger concern. But sustainable journalism costs money so it makes sense that they don’t want to have ChatGPT cannibalize their web traffic.

Davies did say that the BBC was open to “a more structured and sustainable approach with technology companies.” So we might see them opting for an arrangement similar to what Associated Press entered into with OpenAI.

BBC to start using generative AI

In the next few months, the BBC will explore using Gen AI in both content creation and its operations.

It is planning several trial projects to see “how Gen AI could potentially support, complement or even transform BBC activity across a range of fields, including journalism research and production, content discovery and archive, and personalised experiences.”

While the company is open to using AI in creating content it acknowledged the potential risks surrounding trust in media and copyright issues.

If they used ChatGPT to write an article, would they be giving tacit approval to the alleged wholesale data grab of copyrighted data that trained the tool?

You’ve also got to wonder what BBC journalists are saying around the water cooler about this move. Using AI to write news articles doesn’t work very well yet, but it’s as bad as it will ever be. Could some journalists be joining the picket or unemployment line in the near future?

Davies said the BBC would “always prioritise talent and creativity – No technology can replicate or replace human creativity.”

That statement regarding the current capability of AI tech may be true for now. But for how long?

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.

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