Ads Enter Bing Chat Responses, to Much Confusion

Tech journalists question if chatbot is now giving sponsored answers
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2023 8:51 AM CDT
Ads Enter Bing Chat Responses, to Much Confusion
The Bing app icon is seen on a smartphone, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Marple Township, Pa.   (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Microsoft is slipping more ads into the AI-powered Bing chatbot, which could add to the "already difficult cognitive load of determining whether you can trust a given response," writes Jay Peters at the Verge. Ads have been appearing within the Bing interface since its launch in February. In one example cited by Search Engine Roundtable, hovering over a hyperlink made sourced articles appear under an ad, as is typical with traditional search engine results. On Wednesday, however, Microsoft corporate vice president Yusuf Mehdi announced the company would begin "placing ads in the chat experience" with the goal "to share the ad revenue with partners whose content contributed to the chat response."

Not all users are seeing these ads yet. But Glean founding engineer Debarghya Das shared a screenshot of how they appeared to him on Tuesday amid a query about cheap Honda cars. "The cheapest Honda car for 2023 is the Civic Sport which starts at around $24,650 according to True Car," the response reads. At the end of this sentence, a small blue "ad" box appears in a format used for citations. As Julia Malleck writes at Quartz, "it remains unclear if the ads are the source of the information, or if companies are paying to have an ad placed next to search-related content."

TechCrunch's Devin Coldewey has lots of questions. "Why are [True Car's] prices higher than the ones listed at Honda? Is Microsoft being paid to not include Autotrader or listings? Can the user ask for non-sponsored results?" At the Verge, Peters argues the format doesn't seem "too obtrusive," but he also wonders "how Microsoft will pick whether to show an ad or source a response directly from a publisher or website." Mehdi said Microsoft was "pioneering the future of advertising in these new mediums." In a follow-up statement, communications director Caitlin Roulston told the Verge "there may be some variability" in how ads appear while Bing remains "in preview" and "new opportunities for ad experiences" are explored. (Some tech bigwigs are demanding a halt on AI systems training.)

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