Content Protection in an AI-Generated World


Tech platforms are looking to find balance between allowing their content to be discoverable by third parties and protecting their content from being hijacked by AI-training competitors. In 2024, will platforms tip the balance toward greater control of their content?

We discuss the challenges and opportunities in this extract from The Pace of Progress – 2024 Media Trends, dentsu’s 14th annual trends report. Download the report to find all ten trends covered in the report.

Content and API protectionism is on the rise

In June 2023, Twitch announced new branded content guidelines that would have restricted creators’ ability to embed advertising into their streams via third-party technology providers, potentially reducing their revenue, but the company quickly announced it would remove the guidelines after users pushed back.

Yet, other platforms have decided to weather users’ outrage and implemented policies giving them more control over their users’ experience, and limiting how third parties access their data and interact with their users.

For years, X and Reddit allowed third parties to create apps based on their content with little restriction, to give users a different way to access their ecosystems, and appeal to wider audiences. Third parties could leverage application programming interfaces (APIs) to integrate tweets or publications into their own apps. Popular services such as TweetDeck emerged, offering personalization, easier account management, and even new features. But in 2023, both X and Reddit introduced new paying API plans and limitations to their free plans, resulting in services shutting down and temporary boycotts from users.

Anti-data scraping gains momentum

There are three reasons tech platforms are more protective of their APIs. First, platforms want higher monetary compensation to offset the infrastructure cost of processing data for them. Second, platforms would prefer getting their users back into environments where they can collect first-party data and serve ads. This would offer brands a larger ad inventory available and better ad targeting. Finally, there is a suspicion that some third parties may be using APIs to compile the billions of conversations published on the platforms as source of people intelligence to train generative AI.

This last reason now goes far beyond walled gardens and APIs, and an increasing number of companies are looking to prevent scraping of their content.

OpenAI has recently launched GPTBot.  This bot’s way of working is reminiscent of search engines’ web crawlers, combing through websites to extract information. However, this is where the similarities end. Search engine web crawlers aim to index content; GPTBot aims to help AI models become more sophisticated. For content owners like brands, while the benefits of the former are clear – visibility and site traffic, the benefits of the latter are not.

Leading publications like The New York Times have already attempted to restrict scraping for generative AI by updating their terms of service to prohibit training machine learning or artificial intelligence without prior written consent, and we expect similar protective moves to boom across industries in 2024.

On the short term, brands can decide whether they want to implement the technical means to opt out from AI-training crawlers. For example, it is possible to disallow or limit GPTBot access to a website by editing its robots.txt file, a file search well known by search engine optimization specialists. In the long term, brands will face the balancing exercise of simultaneously enabling the discoverability of their content and protecting it.

What’s next for tech platforms in 2024?

More platforms will adopt protective measures to prevent involuntary contribution to the development of services competing for their audiences’ attention, and to better control their audience experience and monetization. This will lead to new opportunities for advertisers to better reach these audiences through advertising and could open data partnership possibilities.

This is the fifth of ten media trends discussed in dentsu’s The Pace of Progress – 2024 Media Trends report

Next time: trend #6 – The identity refocus.[DC6] 

To find out more about the future of advertising, read our full 2024 Media Trends report “The Pace of Progress’’