Google Search Prioritizes AI-Generated Content Over Authentic Journalism in News Results

Recently, I was using Google and stumbled upon an article that felt eerily familiar.

While searching for the latest information on Adobe’s artificial intelligence policies, I typed “adobe train ai content” into Google and switched over to the News tab. I had already seen WIRED’s coverage that appeared on the results page in the second position: “Adobe Says It Won’t Train AI Using Artists’ Work. Creatives Aren’t Convinced.” And although I didn’t recognize the name of the publication whose story sat at the very top of the results, Syrus #Blog, the headline on the article hit me with a wave of déjà vu: “When Adobe promised not to train AI on artists’ content, the creative community reacted with skepticism.”

Clicking on the top hyperlink, I found myself on a spammy website brimming with plagiarized articles that were repackaged, many of them using AI-generated illustrations at the top. In this spam article, the entire WIRED piece was copied with only slight changes to the phrasing. Even the original quotes were lifted. A single, lonely hyperlink at the bottom of the webpage, leading back to our version of the story, served as the only form of attribution.

A list of news articles within Google’s search results show an AI spam version of a WIRED story listed at the top, with the original reported story listed second.

The bot wasn’t just copying journalism in English—I found versions of this plagiarized content in 10 other languages, including many of the languages that WIRED produces content in, like Japanese and Spanish.

Articles that were originally published in outlets like Reuters and TechCrunch were also plagiarized on this blog in multiple languages and given similar AI images. During late June and early July, while I was researching this story, the website Syrus appeared to have gamed the News results for Google well enough to show up on the first page for multiple tech-related queries.

For example, I searched “competing visions google openai” and saw a TechCrunch piece at the top of Google News. Below it were articles from The Atlantic and Bloomberg comparing the rival companies’ approaches to AI development. But then, the fourth article to appear for that search, nestled right below these more reputable websites, was another Syrus Blog piece that heavily copied the TechCrunch article in the first position.

As reported by 404 Media in January, AI-powered articles appeared multiple times for basic queries at the beginning of the year in Google News results. Two months later, Google announced significant changes to its algorithm and new spam policies, as an attempt to improve the search results. And by the end of April, Google shared that the major adjustments to remove unhelpful results from its search engine ranking system were finished. “As of April 19, we’ve completed the rollout of these changes. You’ll now see 45 percent less low-quality, unoriginal content in search results versus the 40 percent improvement we expected across this work,” wrote Elizabeth Tucker, a director of product management at Google, in a blog post.

Despite the changes, spammy content created with the help of AI remains an ongoing, prevalent issue for Google News.

“This is a really rampant problem on Google right now, and it’s hard to answer specifically why it’s happening,” says Lily Ray, senior director of search engine optimization at the marketing agency Amsive. “We’ve had some clients say, ‘Hey, they took our article and rehashed it with AI. It looks exactly like what we wrote in our original content but just kind of like a mumbo-jumbo, AI-rewritten version of it.’”

At first glance, it was clear to me that some of the images for Syrus’ blogs were AI generated based on the illustrations’ droopy eyes and other deformed physical features—telltale signs of AI trying to represent the human body.

Now, was the text of our article rewritten using AI? I reached out to the person behind the blog to learn more about how they made it and received confirmation via email that an Italian marketing agency created the blog. They claim to have used an AI tool as part of the writing process. “Regarding your concerns about plagiarism, we can assure you that our content creation process involves AI tools that analyze and synthesize information from various sources while always respecting intellectual property,” writes someone using the name Daniele Syrus over email.

They point to the single hyperlink at the bottom of the lifted article as sufficient attribution. While better than nothing, a link which doesn’t even mention the publication by name is not an adequate defense against plagiarism. The person also claims that the website’s goal is not to receive clicks from Google’s search engine but to test out AI algorithms in multiple languages.

When approached over email for a response, Google declined to comment about Syrus. “We don’t comment on specific websites, but our updated spam policies prohibit creating low-value, unoriginal content at scale for the purposes of ranking well on Google,” says Meghann Farnsworth, a spokesperson for Google. “We take action on sites globally that don’t follow our policies.” (Farnsworth is a former WIRED employee.)

Looking through Google’s spam policies, it appears that this blog does directly violate the company’s rules about online scraping. “Examples of abusive scraping include: … sites that copy content from other sites, modify it only slightly (for example, by substituting synonyms or using automated techniques), and republish it.” Farnsworth declined to confirm whether this blog was in violation of Google’s policies or if the company would de-rank it in Google News results based on this reporting.

What can the people who write original articles do to properly protect their work? It’s unclear. Though, after all of the conversations I’ve had with SEO experts, one major through line sticks out to me, and it’s an overarching sense of anxiety.


“Our industry suffers from some form of trauma, and I’m not even really joking about that,” says Andrew Boyd, a consultant at an online link-building service called Forte Analytica. “I think one of the main reasons for that is because there’s no recourse if you’re one of these publishers that’s been affected. All of a sudden you wake up in the morning, and 50 percent of your traffic is gone.” According to Boyd, some websites lost a majority of their visitors during Google’s search algorithm updates over the years.

While many SEO experts are upset with the lack of transparency about Google’s biggest changes, not everyone I spoke with was critical of the prevalence of spam in search results. “Actually, Google doesn’t get enough credit for this, but Google’s biggest challenge is spam.” says Eli Schwartz, the author of the book Product-Led SEO. “So, despite all the complaints we have about Google’s quality now, you don’t do a search for hardware and then find adult sites. They’re doing a good enough job.” The company continues to release smaller search updates to fight against spam.

Yes, Google sometimes offers users a decent experience by protecting them from seeing sketchy pornography websites when searching unrelated, popular queries. But it remains reasonable to expect one of the most powerful companies in the world—that has considerable influence over how online content is created, distributed, and consumed—to do a better job of filtering out plagiarizing, unhelpful content from the News results.

“It’s frustrating, because we see we’re trying to do the right thing, and then we see so many examples of this low-quality, AI stuff outperforming us,” says Ray. “So I’m hopeful that it’s temporary, but it’s leading to a lot of tension and a lot of animosity in our industry, in ways that I’ve personally never seen before in 15 years.” Unless spammy sites with AI content are stricken from the search results, publishers will now have less incentive to produce high-quality content and, in turn, users will have less reason to trust the websites appearing at the top of Google News.


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