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SA Commission Probes ChatGPT | Rateweb
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SA Commission Probes ChatGPT

The Competition Commission of South Africa has launched a market inquiry into the distribution of media on digital platforms in the country. The inquiry will focus on the impact of digital platforms such as search engines, social media sites, video-sharing platforms, and news aggregation platforms on news media businesses and publishers in South Africa, with a particular emphasis on the potential adverse implications of these platforms on the news media sector of the country.

  1. The Competition Commission of South Africa has launched an inquiry into the impact of digital platforms, such as search engines and social media, on news media businesses and publishers, focusing on potential adverse implications on the news media sector.
  2. The inquiry will investigate the role of digital platforms in distributing and monetizing news content, as well as the adoption of new technologies like AI chatbots, including ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, and their effects on South African news media businesses.
  3. The commission aims to assess the impact of the changing landscape on the sustainability of independent journalism and the potential for fair payment for content, considering the growing shift towards digital news consumption and its consequences for revenue and costs.

The commission has expressed concerns that digital platforms that distribute news media content have market features that could potentially impede, distort, or restrict competition. It argues that this imbalance can have implications for fair payment for content and the sustainability of independent journalism.

The inquiry will investigate the interaction and dependency of South African news media businesses on relevant digital platforms as intermediaries, distributors, and links to online users for the dissemination of news content online. It will also investigate the impact on news media businesses to aggregate, display, create, and monetize their news content online.

The inquiry will also evaluate new technologies adopted by digital platforms, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI) search support, and the significance these may have on the operations of businesses in the South African news media sector. This includes the impact of chatbot models such as ChatGPT, which was launched by Open AI in November 2022 and uses generative AI machine learning to answer any questions posed by users. In February 2023, Microsoft announced that it had partnered with OpenAI to utilize the ChatGPT chatbot model in its Bing search engine. Around the same time, Google announced it had launched its own chatbot model, Bard, that would be integrated with its search engine.

The commission has raised concerns about the integration of these generative AI-based chatbots into search engines, as they allow users to obtain direct answers to questions or queries posed on the search results page without the need to necessarily obtain them through accessing publisher webpages. This poses a potential threat to user traffic being driven to online content publishers’ webpages, resulting in a further threat to monetization of their content through adverts. South African news publishers’ content may also be used to train these AI systems without authorization or compensation.

According to the commission, South Africa is seeing a growing shift in the consumption of digital news sources due to the increasing adoption of digital devices like smartphones. The distribution of news content over the digital platforms being focused on in the inquiry has become a convenient way for news content to reach consumers. However, this change in consumer behavior and distribution model has impacted the cost and revenues of South African news media businesses. There has been a loss of traditional classifieds and print advertising revenue, as well as additional costs in providing digital news feeds and ensuring visibility on these digital platforms.

The inquiry will focus only on businesses within the South African news media sector, including news publishers and broadcasters. The commission has emphasized that the inquiry is underpinned by the value of a properly funded press to advance a well-functioning democracy. This includes the diversity of views from smaller media businesses and media owned by historically disadvantaged persons. The nature and extent to which digital platforms impact the news media sector in South Africa are still to be evaluated and determined through this market inquiry.