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In this week’s edition of Bricks, Brambles, and Bytes, I spoke about the new ruling by the Federal Communications Commission regarding AI use in robocalls.


For those who are unaware, robocalls are automated, pre-recorded telemarketing messages. Have you ever picked up the phone and heard a recorded female voice say, “Your Google listing is…” (I don’t know what comes after that because I always slam down the phone). That’s a robocall. Robocalls are prevalent during election season. Politician A records his endorsement of Candidate B, and the parties use automated dialers to phone every registered voter in the precinct to hear how much Politician A loves Candidate B.


The FCC’s new ruling states that marketers using AI to create voiceovers for robocalls must disclose them. Now, for many people reading this, the ruling has no bearing, right? You don’t use robocalls as part of your marketing, so why should you care?


You should care because this is just the tip of the iceberg. The use of AI is controversial – highly controversial. It was so controversial that when an astute journalist realized that Sports Illustrated had weird phrases in their articles and did a little digging, he discovered that not only were they likely using AI to write the articles, but the ‘writer profiles’ were bogus, too. Nothing was real. He pulled back the curtain on the SI Wizard of AI. And like the famous Wizard of Oz, Sports Illustrated said, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” and tried to scrub all of the AI-generated content from their site. It failed. It failed miserably. Readers rebelled, sponsors fled, and the venerable magazine declared bankruptcy.


So, where does that leave you? You’re a business owner. AI is free to use (at least it is now, but that may change.) Why pay for content when you can use AI?


Just as Sports Illustrated found out the hard way, using AI without disclosing its use can lead to a huge loss of trust in your brand. How much is that trust worth? Quite a lot. Trust is earned slowly over time when your company keeps its promises to its customers. Brand promises are taken very seriously by customers even if they recognize them subconsciously. Once lost, trust may never be regained. And, with a loss of trust, sales, and opportunities are lost.


Marketers who dabble with AI need to be cautious. AI certainly has its place – as a great resource to improve headlines, write social media messages, and summarize original works. It can be used to outline articles and help you get past writer’s block or “blank page” syndrome, that frozen feeling when you start at a blank page and know you are expected to write 1,000 words or more on a topic. All of this is fine for use as a software tool.


What AI cannot do is write original content. Everything it creates is cleverly plagiarized from millions of web pages, books, and other documents it has ingested over time. It may read well and pass the SEO duplicate content test, but it is not original.


AI also comes with a lot of quirks, some of which are bizarre. It messes up gender quite a bit, switching genders even if writing about a person identified as male or female; it sometimes goes off on weird tangents or makes statements that are incorrect, and when confronted with this, insists the mistake is correct. The infamous “There is no country in Africa that begins with the letter K” AI-generated response is a case in point.


As more and more regulatory bodies buckle down on the use of AI, expect to see additional laws like the one enacted by the FCC this week. They are moving forward with the ban on AI voiceovers in robocalls to prevent election fraud, a preemptory move that I think most people would applaud. The courts must quickly tackle the use of AI to create fake images. The Pope in a puffy white rapper coat is funny; downloading a random photo of a person and using it to create porn isn’t, but that’s where the state of AI imagery is at in this brave new world of ours. And someday, the ability to mimic written tone may be there, too.



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