Microsoft AI CEO claims internet content is 'freeware' for training AI

Applications of AI

Microsoft AI CEO Mustafa Suleiman has sparked backlash after saying that any content on the internet is free to use for training AI models. In an interview with CNBC, Suleiman minimized concerns about AI companies using intellectual property, saying the practice of freely using publicly available online content has been established for years.

“With regards to content that's already on the open web, I think since the '90s the social contract around that content has been that it's fair use. Anyone can copy it, recreate it, reproduce it,” he commented. “It's kind of 'freeware,' so to speak, and that's how it's been understood.”

The tech leader added that unless a publisher or news organization explicitly requests that their content not be “scraped or crawled” outside of indexing, AI companies can use it to train their AI models.

“There's another category when a website or publisher or news organization specifically instructs us, 'Please do not scrape or crawl for any purpose other than to index this content so that others can find it,'” he said. “This is a grey area, and I think it will be resolved in court.”

Suleiman's comments about the unclear legal boundaries around training AI models are reflected in recent legal action, which led the Center for Investigative Journalism to file a lawsuit against OpenAI and its major investor, Microsoft, for misusing the nonprofit's content without permission or compensation.

According to the complaint, AI checker Copyleaks found that roughly 60% of the answers provided by ChatGPT-3.5 contained some sort of plagiarized content, and more than 45% contained text identical to existing content.

The lawsuit coincides with similar legal challenges by The New York Times and about eight other media organizations.

Users react to Microsoft CEO's AI comments

Several users posted reactions to X, disagreeing with the Microsoft CEO's position that the available content is part of a “social contract” and can be used for free to train AI models.

“This should be freeware and now your company is brazenly stealing by reducing all human expression to 'content',” said one user, while another equated it to a “plagiarism machine.”

Featured Image: World Economic Forum / Canva

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