Does AI threaten the future of Google Search? – Arab News

https://arab.news/mkbxb
LONDON: Google Search is in peril, some people believe. The ubiquitous search engine, which has been the gateway to the internet for billions of people worldwide for the past two decades, faces “existential threats,” they say, that are forcing parent company Alphabet’s management to declare a “code red.”
“Google may be only a year or two away from total disruption,” Paul Buchheit, a Gmail developer wrote in a message posted on Twitter this month. “(Artificial Intelligence) will eliminate the search engine result page, which is where they make most of their money.”
Buchheit continued by predicting that AI could transform and replace the internet-search industry in much the same way the way Google effectively destroyed the formerly successful Yellow Pages model of printed telephone directories of businesses, which had thrived for many decades.
AI and chatbot services such as ChatGPT are already beginning to revolutionize the way people carry out research online by providing users with an unprecedented level of convenience and speed.
Unlike traditional search engines, which rely on keyword-matching to provide results, AI chatbots use advanced algorithms and artificial intelligence to understand the deeper intent behind a user’s query.
As a result, ChatGPT is capable of responding to more complex requests, building simple codes, working out difficult issues, and chatting in a relatively human-like manner. Contrast this with Google, which can only provides users with the links and tools they need to carry out detailed research themselves.
Because the results are shown in real time and more accurately reflect what is actually being asked, natural language processing services such as ChatGPT provide access to all the information users require, through a conversational AI interface, in a fraction of the time it would take them to manually search for it.
In other words, as many experts have been quick to point out, ChatGPT performs many similar tasks to Google — only better.
Google is one of several businesses, research facilities and experts who have contributed to the development of ChatGPT, which stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer. It is a groundbreaking collaborative project spearheaded by a research lab called OpenAI, which is also behind DALL-E, an AI-powered system that generates images from natural language descriptions provided by a user.
Although Google’s own search engine already exploits the power of AI in an effort to enhance the service it provides and deliver more relevant results to users, some experts believe the tech giant might struggle to compete with the newer, smaller companies developing these AI chatbots, because of the many ways the technology could hurt its existing business model.
In April, the Technology Innovation Institute, a cutting-edge research hub in Abu Dhabi, unveiled a service similar to ChatGPT, called Noor. The biggest Arabic-language natural language processing model to date, it is intended to provide the Arab region with a competitive edge in the field, given that technologies such as chatbots, market intelligence, and machine translation traditionally have tended to significantly favor English- and Chinese-language markets.
Last year, Google Search and other web-based Google properties, which span many countries and languages, accounted for $149 billion in revenues. The disruptive power of services such as ChatGPT and Noor therefore could represent a significant blow to Google’s parent company Alphabet and its business model.
“The potential for something like OpenAI’s ChatGPT to eventually supplant a search engine like Google isn’t a new idea but this delivery of OpenAI’s underlying technology is the closest approximation yet to how that would actually work in a fully fleshed out system, and it should have Google scared,” TechCrunch US managing editor Darrell Etherington wrote this month.
However, it is still early days and, as Jacob Carpenter points out, “the idea of upstart AI firms supplanting Google feels premature” given Alphabet can call on its significant resources to help see off any potential competition.
ChatGPT, described as the most advanced AI chatbot in the market, is available in several regions and supports a variety of languages, including Arabic. However, despite the enormous advances it undoubtedly represents, limitations remain.
In its current form, ChatGPT is unable to access the internet or other external sources of information, which means it cannot respond to or provide geo-based recommendations.
Moreover, the training data for its model only goes up to 2021, so the program often offers incorrect or biased answers, which means the service, at least for now, is not a reliable source of information.
Although the buzz generated by ChatGPT and Noor is likely to attract users and investors, which will help the technology to further develop, significant skepticism remains as to whether such AI chatbots will ever be able to do to Google Search what Google Search did to Yellow Pages.
For all the lofty claims from some experts about the potential of advanced-language models — and although it is important to recognize that they do offer distinct advantages, enhanced abilities and a different user experience to existing Google services that has the potential to revolutionize the way we search for things on the web — it is also important to be aware that even the developers of ChatGPT have said the technology is “not a direct competitor to Google Search and is not likely to replace it.”
LONDON: Prince Harry and wife Meghan on Saturday accused The Sun of a “PR stunt” after the British tabloid apologized and said it regretted publishing a much-criticized column about the couple.
The piece, in which former “Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson said he “hated” Meghan, sparked a big backlash and became the UK Independent Press Standards Organization’s (IPSO) most complained-about article.
In it, Clarkson said he dreamed of the day when Meghan “is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant ‘shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.”
IPSO received more than 20,000 complaints and many high-profile figures criticized the comments, including author Philip Pullman and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The Sun, which removed the December 16 article from its website three days later at the request of Clarkson, said in its Friday apology that it would also now be removed from its archives.
“We are sincerely sorry,” the tabloid said in a statement on its website.
“Columnists’ opinions are their own, but as a publisher, we realize that with free expression comes responsibility.”
But in a biting response, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — as they are formally known — criticized it for failing to contact Meghan to apologize directly.
“The fact that The Sun has not contacted The Duchess of Sussex to apologize shows their intent. This is nothing more than a PR stunt,” the spokesperson said.
“While the public absolutely deserves the publication’s regrets for their dangerous comments, we wouldn’t be in this situation if The Sun did not continue to profit off of and exploit hate, violence and misogyny.
“A true apology would be a shift in their coverage and ethical standards for all. Unfortunately, we’re not holding our breath.”
The article had been written in response to the couple’s recent Netflix docuseries “Harry & Meghan,” in which they were highly critical of the voracious UK tabloid press.
In his own response earlier this week, Clarkson said on Twitter he made “a clumsy reference to a scene in Game of Thrones and this has gone down badly with a great many people.”
He added: “I’m horrified to have caused so much hurt and I shall be more careful in future.”
In one of the most famous scenes in “Game of Thrones,” a woman character makes a “walk of shame” where she is forced to walk down the streets naked as people throw rubbish at her.
 
NEW YORK: Twitter Inc. has restored a feature that promotes suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to users looking up certain content, after coming under pressure from some users and consumer safety groups over its removal.
Reuters reported on Friday that the feature was taken down a few days ago, citing two people familiar with the matter, who said the removal was ordered by the social media platform’s new owner Elon Musk.
After publication of the story, Twitter head of trust and safety Ella Irwin confirmed the removal and called it temporary.
Twitter was “fixing relevance, optimizing the size of the message prompts and correcting outdated prompts,” Irwin said in an email to Reuters. “We know they are useful and our intent was not to have them down permanently.”
About 15 hours after the initial report, Musk, who did not initially respond to requests for comment, tweeted “False, it is still there.” In response to criticism by Twitter users, he also tweeted “Twitter doesn’t prevent suicide.”
The feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, places a banner at the top of search results for certain topics. It has listed contacts for support organizations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and freedom of expression.
By Saturday, the banner returned to searches about suicide and domestic violence in multiple countries under terms like “shtwt,” shorthand for “self-harm Twitter.”
Whether the feature had been restored for other categories was not clear. The feature was not appearing for some search queries that Twitter has previously said triggered it, such as “#HIV.”
Irwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
Twitter bans users from encouraging self-harm, though consumer safety groups have criticized the company for allowing posts that they say violate the policy.
On Saturday, tweets showing graphic imagery of people cutting their arms appeared beneath banners on searches for self-harm.
The disappearance of #ThereIsHelp had led some consumer safety groups and Twitter users to express concerns about the well-being of vulnerable users of the platform.
In part due to pressure from such groups, Internet services including Twitter, Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook have for years tried to direct users to well-known resource providers for safety issues.
In her email on Friday, Twitter’s Irwin said, “Google does really well with these in their search results and (we) are actually mirroring some of their approach with the changes we are making.”
She added, “Google provides highly relevant message prompts based on search terms, they are always current and are optimized appropriately for both mobile and web.”
Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who had been on a recently dissolved Twitter content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disconcerting” and that completely removing a feature to revamp it was unusual.
 
RIYADH: Arab News, the Riyadh-based regional leading English-language daily, has put out a special Christmas edition, making it the first time ever a Saudi newspaper to ever do so. 
“While of course this is not a new tradition in most countries around the world, it is a first in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the ancient proverb does say: better late than never”, wrote Editor-in-Chief Faisal J. Abbas.
“In fact, this symbolic edition — as simple of an idea it is — couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the remarkable reforms the kingdom has been living under our leadership which has clearly ushered in a new era of more religious tolerance and coexistence,” he added vowing to make the special supplement an annual tradition. 
The special edition also features a range of features that look into how the Christmas spirit is embodied within the kingdom’s wide ranging social transformation. The features detail how the occasion was frowned upon and celebrated in secret in the past, and how this festivity has now been tolerated and respected. (All found here: https://www.arabnews.com/Xmas2022)
“Where to order the best Christmas meal” and “Christmas turkey with an Arab twist brought to you by a Saudi chef” are only a couple of the headlines lined up for the season.
Other features include a look into celebrating Christmas in crises-ridden Lebanon and how Palestinians in Bethlehem are celebrating in caution as they anticipate a new ultra right wing government in Israel. 
While Saudi Arabia does not officially celebrate Christmas, cafes have now been offering Christmas dinners and brunches, while hotels are offering private catering to expat households.
The Christmas spirit is felt throughout the kingdom through novelty-themed drinks and products.
Arab News has also previously celebrated Jewish holidays, launched the “Minority Report” series to shed light on religious minorities in the region and dedicated a whole team to track and shame hate preachers of all religions, including in Saudi Arabia.

DUBAI: Earlier this month, CNN added a simulation to its academy training program for the first time.
Held over five days, the simulation saw 88 students from the network’s various academy programs participate to refine and use their skills at the twofour54 Yas Creative Hub in Abu Dhabi.
Arab News spoke to CNN Academy director Alireza Hajjihosseini to learn more about the initiative and how this and other CNN Academy programs are designed to prepare students for journalism in an increasingly tech-driven environment.
“At CNN Academy, we’re always thinking of new ways to enable our students to apply the journalism skills we empower them within a real-life setting,” Hajjihosseini said.

In the past, the academy has sent out students with CNN photojournalists to shoot and edit a story or allowed a select few to shadow CNN teams as they put a news broadcast together.
“This year, we wanted to take that experience one step further and tapped into CNN’s legacy of innovation to create an industry-first opportunity that allows every single one of our program participants to refine and test their skills as journalists and storytellers,” he said.
During the five days, participants worked in teams to explore a fictional scenario that allowed them to act as reporters, news writers and content producers.
They were required to verify sources, attend mock press conferences, conduct mock interviews, respond to email updates, and decipher documents.
There were multiple factors to be considered when designing the fictional simulation to ensure that the scenario “was rich enough and complex enough to provide participants with multiple alternative angles they could pursue,” Hajjihosseini said.
It was also critical that the mock press conferences, interviews, etc were inter-connected to fill out the story as it developed.
“Above all, we had to recreate the pressures of a real-life breaking news environment while building in ethical and storytelling challenges with the narrative to achieve our pedagogical objectives,” he said.
To ensure this, CNN journalists partnered with Prof. Rex Brynen, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and Jim Wallman, director of game design company Stone Paper Scissors.
Both are “thought leaders in their field and have worked with global organizations and governments across the world to design and deliver simulations that help players map out strategies and get a real-life sense of the impact of their decision-making,” Hajjihosseini said.
But for him, there was also a personal reason, having studied at McGill University where he took some of Brynen’s courses. He remembers one in particular, peacebuilding simulation, which was one of the “most memorable and intense learning experiences” of his academic career.
“So, when we started thinking about designing an industry-first journalism simulation I knew I had to reach out to Rex and see if we could collaborate together, as I wanted to recreate that experience for CNN Academy participants,” he said.
The program is aimed at helping students walk away with journalism as well as life experiences, but also developing soft skills that only come with experience. The best-performing teams, said Hajjihosseini, weren’t necessarily the ones with the sharpest journalistic members, but they “knew how to read an interviewee and the way in which they should conduct themselves in the field or in a press conference to unlock more information.”

“Those are skills that you can only pick up when you do something and cannot be developed by simply sitting in a workshop or in a lecture theater,” he said.
Participants also had to navigate a custom-made social media platform, which was updated throughout and included evidence, bots, decoys and news.
Hajjihosseini explained: “When news breaks today, it often breaks on social media and platforms like Twitter. So, we wanted to recreate a platform that emulates that, and which combines text and multimedia content.”
Prior to the simulation, CNN had created fictional characters on its social media platform, with backstories and a pre-set series of posts. Some of these were helpful to the overall scenario and some were just noise.
The platform also featured accounts for the role players the participants met in real-life as well as troll accounts that were designed to flood the space with noise in a breaking news setting.
“Throughout the five days, the social media (platform) was updated with pre-written posts as well as posts that we wrote and content we produced to feed the scenario as it developed,” he said.

The inclusion of the custom social media platform is critical at a time when social media is the primary news source for many people.
“The past 15 years have seen a profound change in the way newsrooms operate, and social media has played a central role in that,” Hajjihosseini said.
Much has changed in that period, from the rise of citizen journalism to the establishment of social discovery teams, to forensic open-source analysis that plays a key role in many investigations now, he said.
What has not changed is the need for accuracy, especially when social media is pervaded by false news and misinformation.
False or misleading stories have become “an enormously problematic aspect of not only the media but also society in general,” which is worsened by the social media platforms encouraging the spread of such stories and creating echo chambers, Hajjihosseini said.
“The difficulty in this area for journalists and news organizations is not only to push back on these false narratives, but also to break through to people who receive their news from unreliable or deliberately misleading sources,” he said.
“Fake news,” on the other hand, is used by certain people or organizations, particularly governments and politicians, to try and discredit reporting that is true but which they don’t like, Hajjihosseini said.
“This is particularly dangerous and challenging; it undermines the vitally important role of journalism in holding the powerful to account and can even present safety issues for journalists who are going about important work legitimately,” he said.
His vision for CNN Academy is to help “seed professional skills and ethics in more new journalists, all of whom we hope will ultimately help to address this issue in the real world.”
 
SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter Inc. removed a feature in the past few days that promoted suicide prevention hotlines and other safety resources to users looking up certain content, according to two people familiar with the matter who said it was ordered by new owner Elon Musk.
The removal of the feature, known as #ThereIsHelp, has not been previously reported. It had shown at the top of specific searches contacts for support organizations in many countries related to mental health, HIV, vaccines, child sexual exploitation, COVID-19, gender-based violence, natural disasters and freedom of expression.
Its elimination could add to concerns about the well-being of vulnerable users on Twitter. Musk has said that impressions, or views, of harmful content are declining since he took over in October and has tweeted graphs showing a downward trend, even as researchers and civil rights groups have tracked an increase in tweets with racial slurs and other hateful content.
Twitter and Musk did not respond to requests for comment on the removal of the feature.
Washington-based AIDS United, which was promoted in #ThereIsHelp, and iLaw, a Thai group mentioned for freedom of expression support, both told Reuters on Friday that the disappearance of the feature was a surprise to them.
AIDS United said a webpage that the Twitter feature linked to attracted about 70 views a day until Dec. 18. Since then, it has drawn 14 views in total.
Damar Juniarto, executive director at Twitter partner Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network, tweeted on Friday about the missing feature and said “stupid actions” by the social media service could lead his organization to abandon it.
Reuters could not immediately establish why Musk would order the removal of the feature. The sources with knowledge of his decision declined to be named because they feared retaliation. One of them said millions of people had encountered #ThereIsHelp messages.
Eirliani Abdul Rahman, who had been on a recently dissolved Twitter content advisory group, said the disappearance of #ThereIsHelp was “extremely disconcerting and profoundly disturbing.”
Even if it was only temporarily removed to make way for improvements, “normally you would be working on it in parallel, not removing it,” she said.
In part due to pressure from consumer safety groups, Internet services including Twitter, Google and Facebook have for years tried to direct users to well-known resource providers such as government hotlines when they suspect someone may be in danger.
Twitter had launched some prompts about five years ago and some had been available in over 30 countries, according to company tweets. In one of its blog posts about the feature, Twitter had said it had responsibility to ensure users could “access and receive support on our service when they need it most.”
Just as Musk bought the company, the feature was expanded to show information related to natural disaster searches in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Alex Goldenberg, lead intelligence analyst at the non-profit Network Contagion Research Institute, said prompts that had shown in search results just days ago were no longer visible by Thursday.
He and colleagues in August published a study showing that monthly mentions on Twitter of some terms associated with self-harm increased by over 500 percent from about the year before, with younger users particularly at risk when seeing such content.
“If this decision is emblematic of a policy change that they no longer take these issues seriously, that’s extraordinarily dangerous,” Goldenberg said. “It runs counter Musk’s previous commitments to prioritize child safety.”
Musk has said he wants to combat child porn on Twitter and has criticized the previous ownership’s handling of the issue. But he has cut large portions of the teams involved in dealing with potentially objectionable material.
 

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