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AI could be a slippery slope for auto shops 

AI spam and AI manipulated content could impact how the automotive industry will use social media platforms

A large portion of the internet today is now made up of bots talking to bots, filtered through the lens of recommendation and engagement algorithms. Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram are now home to host zombie accounts, where a mix of bots, fake webpages, and customer referrals that were once authentic are mixed together to form a website where there is little human connection at all. 

Steven E. Schillinger is an accredited professional engineer and consultant to the auto industry concerning EPA, OSHA and Fire Marshal regulations.

Over the last few months, I tried to determine if some AI-generated posts are real. I researched the profiles and activity of Facebook users who are searching for auto service or repair and commenting on various results and images. I have asked some auto shop owners to send me examples of fake images they’ve seen on the internet and, just as Stanford researchers Renee DiResta and Josh A. Goldstein found, AI spam is showing up in automotive service and repair feeds.

AI is evolving and being released for public use faster than shop owners can add safeguards in many cases. Carefully review how data and pictures are collected and used by AI devices before posting them (including any phone or third-party digital assistants your customers can interact with).

Recently Google posted: “Our automated systems aim to show the highest quality and most relevant images for the billions of queries we receive every day. Given the scale of the open web, there are cases when our ranking systems might surface relevant web content that falls short of our quality standards. We use these instances to inform overall improvements, as we continue to prioritize efforts to prevent low-quality content — including low-quality AI-generated content — from surfacing in a Search.” 

Mark Zuckerberg recently said that “right now, about 30 percent of the posts on Facebook feed are delivered by our AI recommendation system. That’s up 2x over the last couple of years.” Zuckerberg is referring to a TikTok-like “For You” system on the News Feed where content is being recommended that is not content from pages or groups that users have specifically liked, nor is it content that people’s friends have interacted with. 

Given how the recommendation engine works on these AI image generation sites, clicking on one of the images sends users down a surreal state or situation with more images of the same kind. The results are also another reminder that AI-generated spam and content isn’t produced and shared just on the dark web or other hard-to-access corners of the internet, but is easily accessible on many websites and platforms, despite policies, and are just a couple of clicks away from an automotive service search request. 

There are real auto shop customers on Facebook, X and Instagram and real people are being fed fake auto repair content. The images themselves are being made by AI at the direction of real humans who have learned that The Zombie Internet can be monetized.

AI spam, as well as the slippery slope of AI content, will impact how the automotive industry will use social media platforms. Nevertheless, social media backers have made it clear that they will spend billions of dollars on AI products and services. Consider researching and purchasing products with robust user privacy protocols.

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