AI has potential to be ‘destructive’ to journalism, media tycoon Diller warns

US media billionaire Barry Diller warned that the use of artificial intelligence would prove “destructive” to journalism unless publishers were able to use copyright law to exert control.

Speaking at the Sir Harry Evans Global Summit in Investigative Journalism in London, Diller said that freely allowing AI access to media content would prove to be a mistake, and that the notion of “fair use” — which can be used to cover copyrighted material in data sets for machine learning — needed to be redefined.

“You can’t have fair use when there is an unfair machine that knows no bounds,” said Diller, who chairs media and internet group IAC.

Media groups have grown concerned about the use of their publications as the basis for creating generative AI. News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said this year that the group was already seeking financial compensation from an AI company for use of its “proprietary” content.

Diller said on Wednesday that he would work alongside News Corp and German publishing house Axel Springer in trying to protect their journalism from the threat.

“We are leading a group that is going to say we are going to change copyright law if necessary, to work to say that you cannot take our materials or we will litigate. What you publish you have the right to control,” he said.

Diller added that there would be a wave of destruction in the journalism industry unless there was a structure for publishers to get paid. “I think it is a terrible mistake for publishers to allow it to suck up every known piece of work that has ever been done.”

Axel Springer said that “it is not transparent how AI software operates and in what way journalistic content is crawled, scraped, used and saved. This is an opportunity to make sure we do not repeat the mistakes of platform regulation and create a fair and healthy ecosystem from very early on.”

Axel Springer chief Mathias Döpfner warned earlier this year that AI posed great risks and great opportunities to the media. “Artificial intelligence has the potential to make independent journalism better than it ever was — or simply replace it,” he said.

But one person familiar with the industry discussions played down the role of Axel Springer — which owns newspapers Bild and Die Welt as well as US political news site Politico — in Diller’s crusade, describing the company as “one voice among many” rather than “leading the charge”.

News Corp declined to comment.

Diller also warned about the impact of the recent scandal at Fox News on Rupert Murdoch. He said that the affair would “stain him, and his reputation forever . . . he and his son have poisoned the atmosphere and that’s a bad legacy”.

Fox fired top presenter Tucker Carlson after it was forced to pay out $787.5mn in a settlement of a defamation lawsuit brought by Dominion Voting Systems over allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 US presidential contest.

Fox said: “Fox News’ powerhouse team of journalists, analysts and opinion hosts are trusted more by viewers than any other news source.”

Also talking at the event, John Poulos, chief executive of Dominion Voting Systems, said that he had no regrets about agreeing to the settlement rather than pursuing the case through court, adding that it represented a “very high price to put on truth in journalism”.

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