Users are Responsible for the Content Quality of Their Posts
I agree with most of the key points in the original top post, such as:
- The error rate of many AI-generated materials.
- The need to edit and fact-check material.
- Not using automated tools to farm reputation.
- Avoiding low-quality content blighting our site.
- Not allowing users to spam questions or answers (see rep-farming).
However, as someone who works professionally with AI systems, I disagree with two of the points because they are related to specific tools as well as to end-user license agreements to which we are not privy.
AI-generated text is not intrinsically plagiarism in a legal, scholarly, or literary sense although it certainly can be.
High-end AIs and even high-end text spinners are generally plagiarism-free from a legal standpoint. Ideas cannot be plagiarized, and cannot be placed under copyright. Only unique expression can; there's a whole area of the law that deals with intellectual property, but while the use of AI-generated text (especially a low-quality one) might not pass all plagiarism checkers (e.g. Grammarly or Copyscape) it's not actually plagiarism in the technical or legal sense unless it's essentially a tract of unattributed material from another author.
Most commercial AI tools do not claim copyright for output.
While a few companies that I know of offer art-generating tools where the user has free use but the SaaS company retains the copyrights on the images, I'm presently unaware of any high-end text tools that do the same. Even if they did, we as a community are not parties to those licenses, and have no responsibility to police for copyright infringement. For example, unattributed quotes from the Scrum Guide are pretty obvious and should be attributed, but we aren't obligated to search the Library of Congress to ensure that every line or paragraph is original or cited regardless of whether they are written by humans or AIs. The burden here is on the posting user, and the community should use common sense.
Attribution requirements are rooted in copyright law and licensing, and don't necessarily apply.
Attribution should be required when quoting from a source, but there are all sorts of exceptions to this. As an example, Neil Gaiman doesn't have to attribute line and verse in his book Norse Mythology because:
- The source material is all in the public domain.
- He's not plagiarizing any works under copyright.
- It's not a scholarly or academic piece.
- The source material he's using isn't under a license such as Stack Exchange's use of a Creative Commons license that requires attribution.
This is no different than if someone posted a generated cryptogram, crossword, or Sudoku puzzle. Unless copied from a copyright holder such as the New York Times or required by software license, such things are simply content and should be treated as such.
None of this is to say I agree with people rep-farming with such tools, or posting low-quality or highly derivative material. Nonetheless, I want to ensure we tilt at the right windmills (quality and abusive behavior) without getting side-tracked by legal fictions or scope creep in our collective responsibility to avoid "broken windows."
What the Community Can and Should Do
In my opinion, posts that are low-quality for any reason should be dealt with the same way. We deal with low-quality posts here all the time, and whether it's Google Translate, Grammarly, or some new tool such as ChatGPT our obligations are still the same:
- Downvote, flag, or edit low-quality posts.
- Flag abusive behavior such as flooding sites with low-quality or non-factual posts to limit the problem.
- Flag answer- and question-spam, and moderate repeat offenders.
- Handle real plagiarism through existing community and moderator processes, although eventually I think SE will have to implement tooling at the systems level to handle widespread or cross-site plagiarism (along with the inevitable false positives that such tools generate).
There are always edge cases, and that's what community and diamond moderation is for. Short of XAI becoming more commonplace, or specific tools creating unambiguous and specific problems, trying to treat this as a user-side tool-usage problem instead of a posted quality problem is going to quickly become an exercise in futility, especially as such tools evolve, improve, and (eventually) add value.
Let's not play whack-a-mole with evolving tech. Instead, let's stay focused on keeping the content quality of our site high. While there's a Venn diagram with a currently-large overlap between the two things, they are not synonymous.