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Can you trust robots to provide web content?


Can you trust robots to provide web content?

Some websites are using automatic algorithms to provide content, but recent events at social networking giant Facebook have questioned the wisdom of this.

Facebook’s experience

Facebook’s Trending feature, which provides popular news items, used to be created by humans. Recently, however, Facebook got rid of its trending staff and decided to entrust the job to artificial intelligent algorithms, or robots.

A Facebook spokesman commenting on their changes to the trending features said:

“A more algorithmically driven process allows us to scale Trending to cover more topics and make it available to more people globally over time.”

The result was far from ideal. Some Facebook users were greeted with a link to a video of a man having sex with a hamburger (whether or not they previously expressed an interest in either hamburgers or sex). Other items featured headlines containing obscene words. When the feeds were monitored by humans, obscenities were removed, but the robots had not been programmed to recognise offensive content.

The vast majority of web content is written and edited by humans, including this piece you’re reading right now (hello!). Will this change in the future?

Duplicate content

It is common practice to regularly add content to a website in the form of news, articles and blog posts. If a business finds a news story relevant to its market area then content based on the news story can be used.

It is not advisable to simply cut and paste the article onto a business website as Google will flag this up as duplicate content and penalise the website in its search engine rankings. Copying, or plagiarising, can also open up the website to a charge of copyright infringement by the original publisher of the news story. The way around this is to rewrite the content using different words so that the gist of the news item remains. Google will not regard this as duplicate content so long as it is sufficiently rewritten.

There are several online services that will rewrite content for you. WordAi, for example, claims that it can “automatically create human quality content.” It says that it “uses artificial intelligence to automatically rewrite your article with the same readability as a human.”

Hmmm… I doubt that.

For a number of years there have been different types of article spinning software that produces several versions of the same article, but the results read as if the articles were written by someone just learning English for the first time, and not a native speaker. As AI gets more intelligent, this is changing.


Wix ADI is a system that designs websites automatically. It searches the internet for specific information suitable for a user’s website and then designs a site around the content it finds. Wix claims that it “empowers” rather than replace web designers. Its website does not make it clear how the content avoids duplicate content issues. Perhaps it doesn’t. As the base offering from Wix is free, you can expect to get what you pay for and, in some cases, still feel overcharged.

Automated Insights

Automated Insights is a website that creates reports and news items based on the data contained in spreadsheets. For example, if you have a spreadsheet of sales data for your company, Automated Insights will create a news report about how well your company is doing.

The example of Facebook shows that robots should not be let loose and trusted to provide content for a website. Artificial intelligence can play a role in content provision, and even web design, providing that there is a human editor and designer to oversee the system who can tidy up the grammar and layout.

You also need humans to make sure that offensive material does not automatically appear on a company website, as this could end up on social media and damage your brand for many years to come.

Darren Jamieson

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