Read This Before Accusing a Writer of Using AI

Hands typing on a keyboard

The advent of Chat GPT, Bard, and a litany of other AI writing tools has brought the world into an exciting yet uncomfortable space. We can all see the benefit of AI-generated anything, but we also see the risks and threats that loom. Much like the inundation of social media that connected the world, eventually, it was turned over to bot and spam heathens while toeing the line of free speech vs. hate speech vs. “fake news.”

As a freelance journalist, writer, and content creator, I take pride in my work. My first exposure to AI was that of a jealous, defensive teenager. Was this going to put me out of work? Is a computer going to put me out of work? Is there any fact-checking, storytelling, or context offering in this automated entity?

The First AI Grenade is Thrown

I choose my clients wisely, leaning into my expertise in research, natural-born talent for writing, and topics that I am passionate about, yet feel there’s a chasm of misinformation hanging like a toxic cloud over every search engine inquiry.

In my first AI accusation, I wrote an article that was perfectly suited to my knowledge base. It was about changing careers at 50, how to do it, and what to watch out for during the transition. I live this life. I experience those challenges. I offer unique input that supersedes any AI-generated words when taking into consideration inflation, health care challenges, doing your own taxes, and ongoing education, as well as managing yourself working at home on your own schedule.

It was an article I was sincerely proud of in many ways. It pushed me to a soap box of knowledge but also shoved me into some uncomfortable spaces. After a good night’s rest, as I usually do, a review of it led to not a single edit. That was mine.

Imagine the gaping hole in my face when I got this message from a client.

“For this post, the checker says there is a 100% probability it has AI content. We undestand a content generator makes writing an article easier, so if you did use it to help with a post, please let us know. We won’t be upset — but we do need to let all of our writers know to stop using AI.”

Unnamed Client

I was then given a link to the AI Checker they used.

A few things rang hollow:

  • The AI Checker was a website designed to write their OWN AI content (at a hefty fee) by showing part of the copy that was “likely, most likely, and highly likely” to be AI-generated.
  • The condescending tone of “We won’t be mad if you’re just honest with us,” like I’m a child who stole a cookie and just needed to come clean.
  • The fact that my email rebuttal to the accusation showed three items most likely to be AI-generated, as I ran the email through their “checker” before sending it.

Maybe I’m Being Too Sensitive about AI Accusations

The more I dug into the topic and accusation, the more I saw how people were using AI as more than a tool. They were using it to write entire things. I tapped into my writer friendships and found some people said things like:

  • “It helps me get started.”
  • “It’s great with outlines.”
  • “It’s perfect for low-paying clients with low expectations.”
  • “I use it when I am having writer’s block.”

I tried a few sample stories for articles I was working on, only as research, not as actual article content. What I found (and this is just me) is that it took me more time to get this laborious and boring writing tool to produce anything I would consider good content.

I also found many factual errors, and when I tried to scold AI, I got a hollow apology with more misinformation.

I learned how to jailbreak and boss it around better, but ended up with more poor content and guilt about a computer program I had anthropomorphized. As I work on a per-word payment, anything that cuts into my time costs me money.

What Google Says About AI

The hinge of the accusation was built around content being lowered in value because of AI content. I had to stop my “know-it-all” tendencies when I was told, “We don’t know how Google treats AI content, and this is our livelihood,” by sending a link to Google’s clear policy on where it stands.

In fact, my growing frustration with Google has several tentacles:

  • There is no indication when a news article that shows up in a search result will have a paywall, leading to hours of unnecessary clicks and pop-ups.
  • An answer that is clearly wrong in the Hummingbird function continues to appear. High-ranking but crappy content is repeatedly showing up in my deep-digging requirements.
  • Searchers are given too many articles that are redundant or quote facts that never lead back to an actual source.

Ghostwriting vs. AI

There is another hypocritical element to all of this. Most content writing clients simply want copy that meets certain keywords for SEO, word counts, and format. There is an ocean between how it makes sense to write an article after a writer researches it and the recipe provided for the content.

At the same time, most of the clients want ghostwriters, meaning the writer doesn’t get a byline or credit for their work other than the payment. How is it okay to have “expert” content on a site by a nameless, faceless person but not okay to have AI content? They each lack transparency, which Google DOES frown upon.

AI or automation disclosures are useful for content where someone might think “How was this created?”. Consider adding these when it would be reasonably expected.

Google’s Search’s Guidance about AI-Generated Content

What’s the Solution for Writers Accused of Using AI?

In all fairness, I did get a sort-of apology when I detailed my case about all the reasons I wouldn’t use AI for my work. It left a sour taste in my mouth in general because I was being punished for the masses, not based on how good the content is. I run my content now through this sham of an AI checker, only to find there is NEVER a way to make it happy 100%. It’s laughable that the more trendy and conversational I write, the more it tells me to be “less robotic.”

At a time when companies are cutting writing, blogging, and content creation faster than you can say Q1 Budget, mixed with the seeming ease of generating similar information from AI, it’s never been more important to have good content.

When Google wants EEAT (expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness), you can add the flair an AI generator cannot. For every company ditching good writers, there’s another one out there that wants experts with a real person plunking away on keyboards.

I’ve mentioned before why hiring journalists is a great idea because we know how to dig quickly. We are great storytellers and were force-fed all platforms by companies too cheap to hire niched jobs. We thrive in writing for broadcasts, websites, and social media while having fast editing skills while adapting audio levels on the fly.

We can also become experts in any area within hours. You would not believe the number of plumbing and roofing articles or websites I’ve written when before the first assignment, I couldn’t tell you a shingle from a cedar shake. Now I could quote specs without needing a prompt. I also follow the news cycles to be able to “bump” a client with ideas like, “Hey! You’re about to get a massive snowstorm. I can have you a roof emergency checklist in an hour if you’d like.”

My dear writing and journalist friends — please don’t stop writing great content. Content is, has been, and always will be king. Let AI play out, and I encourage you to play with it, not rage against it.

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