File this under "who could have seen this coming?" but fake story gaming blog zleague.gg got a dose of reality this past week, after its virtual reality content farming bots got trolled by intrepid World of Warcraft players. And no, I didn't use ChatGPT or Bing Chat to write this article. Unlike zleague's "Lucy Reed," sadly I have to work for a living.
Recently, /r/wow World of Warcraft subreddit members noticed that a certain website (and probably others) were producing suspiciously robotic articles that increasingly seemed to be based on reddit posts. This one from zleague.gg titled "Should I create all my WoW characters on the same realm? Players respond." is essentially an article produced from the comments and content of a reddit thread, garbled into an SEO trap, and then promoted by Google and other search engines. Hilariously, WoW users decided to do a little bit of trollin'.
It started with this post by /u/mataric, who notes that while they're not against ai tech, they are against people who scrape other's work and pass it off as their own. Perhaps it would be one thing if zleague.gg had actually acknowledged the fact they were actively stealing content from reddit in their articles, as opposed to attempting to hide it with fake author bylines. In any case, the stage had been set for some cyberpunk-esque trolling that underpins growing pains with AI-driven content.
Mataric noted that if true, the subreddit could experiment with pushing bot content to its home page. Predictably, it turned out that it was true.
Lol someone on reddit made a post about a made up feature introduced in WoW so that a news site using AI-driven scraping bots published an article about it and it worked pic.twitter.com/JwiovKt1FjJuly 20, 2023
WoW users started building shitposts to see if zleague would be dumb enough to run the stories. It turns out it was and is dumb enough, with an article dedicated to how excited players are for "Glorbo" to finally hit the game. Sadly, there is no Glorbo planned for World of Warcraft at this time, but I will personally petition the dev team to make it happen.
ZLeague was also dumb enough to reproduce an article on the thread calling them out for reproducing articles from said threads. Kinda meta, huh?
Feels soooooo good to be able to talk about Glorbo finally, I remember my first day at Blizzard we were just starting to work on implementation, and that was almost 15 years ago!Excellent reporting to track this down👍 pic.twitter.com/Wh1hm0gikMJuly 20, 2023
World of Warcraft websites (written by humans), content creators, and even Blizzard developers joined in on the Glorbo fun, but sadly Zleague.gg didn't think it was all too fun in the end. The site removed all mentions of its AI-driven content on World of Warcraft, and even went as far as removing the entire World of Warcraft section from its website.
A cursory glance across Zleague's "The Portal" website reveals that, as you might expect, pretty much all of its content seems to be scraped from reddit. From Halo, to Diablo, to Valorant, and beyond.
It would be a big shame if other subreddits started to notice their content was being stolen as part of a shallow algorithm-harvesting attempt, no?
Analysis: AI content is going to get dumber before it gets smarter
Recently, researchers discovered ChatGPT and by extension, Bing Chat, had gotten dumber recently. The reasons for it are unclear, but it could be due to websites like Twitter and Reddit making it harder for these platforms to scrape data — human data that these services ironically depend on.
As websites and services like zleague.gg seek to make a quick buck by cutting humans out of the content creation equation, we'll see this strange feedback loop where users reject their content being dispassionately repackaged in this way, wholly without any effort or human input. The results are hilarious and plain to see, and will only get worse as AI content algorithmically regurgitates its own fake news, much like a deep-fried JPEG that has gone through multiple digital degradations as a result of infinitesimal copy-and-paste procedures.
Furthermore, as content farms like zleague seek to put human writers out of a job, AI will get dumber still. In the early days of Bing Chat, I noticed that Bing was effectively copy and pasting guide content that we had written on incredibly niche topics without offering any form of compensation. How can AI learn if it creates a decrease in the quality of content? Either it'll lead to the centralization of information, censored as corporations see fit, or a gradual loop of exponentially degrading quality until it implodes in on itself. ChatGPT already costs hundreds of thousands of dollars per day to run. Perhaps the economics simply won't line up if, predictably, generative AI masochistically reduces its own usefulness. But hey, what do I know. Perhaps I'll ask ChatGPT instead.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!