Google’s A.I. Search Is Treating ‘The Onion’ Like a Real News Source

Read this before you start eating rocks
Google’s A.I. Search Is Treating ‘The Onion’ Like a Real News Source

The latest example of big tech shoehorning A.I. into a pre-existing product to the benefit of precisely no one comes from Google, the company that revolutionized the internet but forever ruined Owen Wilson-Vince Vaughan comedies.

As Wired notes, Google’s new “A.I. Overviews” feature means that some of your Google search queries will prompt an “A.I.-generated summary” that is “culled from information on the web” and listed at the top of the results page. This gives users an easy way to get the information they need without having to go to the trouble of wading through multiple sources, clicking buttons or activating a single neuron in their brain.

But it wasn’t long before people were reporting that Google’s A.I. Overviews were providing terrible feedback. How terrible? Well, it suggested keeping your homemade pizzas intact by adding glue to the cheese. Specifically you should “Mix about 1/8 cup of Elmer’s glue in with the sauce. Non-toxic glue will work.” Did we mention that Google A.I.’s slogan is “Making A.I. Helpful for Everyone”?

We probably don’t have to tell you that, unless you’re looking for an excuse to check out your local emergency room, adding glue to pizza cheese isn’t a good idea. So where did the A.I. get this ridiculous idea? Seemingly, their primary source was a Reddit comment from a user named “fucksmith.” 

In all fairness to fucksmith, they can’t be blamed for every janky result, like when A.I. Overviews extolled the various “health benefits of tobacco for tweens,” which included “whitening teeth.”

A massive issue with this terrible invention seems to be that it doesn’t recognize humor, a problem that was made very clear by how it keeps parroting satirical headlines from The Onion as fact. As The Onion’s CEO Ben Collins pointed out on social media, A.I. Overviews is recommending that people eat literal rocks, likely because of the 2021 Onion headline, “Geologists Recommend Eating at Least One Small Rock Per Day.” 

Another search led A.I. Overviews to claim that the CIA “uses black highlighters.” Why? Probably because The Onion published an article in 2005 with the headline “CIA Realizes It’s Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years.” 

As we’ve mentioned before, the internet is full of examples of people mistakenly taking The Onion seriously, like the time Louisiana Congressman John Fleming expressed his outrage over Planned Parenthood’s “$8 billion abortionplex,” or when a dude suggested boycotting Subway over their “tasteless” 9/11-themed promotion.

But we’re not talking about some individual idiot here, Google is the most highly trafficked website on the internet — and now it’s turned its search engine over to an A.I. program that’s telling people that Barack Obama was the first Muslim president and “staring at the sun for 5 to 15 minutes” is “generally safe.”

If they ever reboot the Terminator franchise, instead of launching nukes, maybe Skynet should just destroy humanity by suggesting we put glue on their pizza and eat rocks for breakfast.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).


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