WordPress user content for AI training

February 29, 2024
tl:dr; WordPress (.com) and (.org) are two entirely different environments. Only sites hosted with WordPress.com are affected with AI training and you can opt-out.
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Yesterday, 404 Media reported a deal that Automattic is planning to sell users’ content on WordPress(.com) for AI training. Before you get fired up (although, I don’t blame you), it’s important to understand what WordPress user content for AI training this deal could affect.

What WordPress websites does this deal affect?

WordPress (.com) and (.org) are two entirely different environments. If your WordPress website is hosted with your own provider using the open-source CMS from wordpress.org, your site is unaffected. However, if you set-up your website through wordpress.com, you are paying a subscription to host on and use Automattic’s platform, and your site may be affected.

What is the difference between WordPress.com and .org?

Think of WordPress.com like you would if you created your site on a proprietary, subscription service like Wix or Squarespace. You are paying to use a service to host a product, which is your website. While subscribed to and utilizing this service, you are agreeing to their terms of service, which can be updated for acquisitions, mergers, and the selling of data at any time.

Now, think of WordPress.org like a file system. I mean, it’s more than just that but stay with me here. Instead of creating an account and having Automattic provide you with access to the WordPress framework, you are effectively downloading the code, files, scripts, etc. to install the content management system (CMS) on your own server. Your data is then hosted where your website files reside, which would be with a service provider like WP Engine, Siteground, Bluehost, etc.

WordPress as a CMS (content management system) is open-source, allowing you to custom-develop your own themes and plugins.

Screenshot of privacy settings in WordPress.com to prevent third-party sharing.
You can opt-out of sharing your content with third-parties by selecting in your WordPress.com settings. Photo by WordPress.com

If you use WordPress.com, you can opt-out of sharing your content

Automattic has published an article about protecting user choice, outlining that attribution, opt-outs, and control are top-priority.

WordPress had a setting to discourage search engines from indexing your site, and now WordPress.com sites also have a similar setting to discourage crawling by AI companies. If you already discouraged search engines, this AI setting should also automatically be enabled.

💡 How-to: You can opt-out of AI sharing on your WordPress.com site by visiting your General Settings page and selecting to prevent third-party sharing.

What about the Jetpack and WooCommerce plugins?

A lot of non-WordPress.com sites still use Automattic’s Jetpack plugin for additional features and functionality. Jetpack released a tweet yesterday to clarify that data from Jetpack connected sites are not included and that this content sharing only applies to WordPress.com hosted sites.

Screenshot of tweet by Jetpack to clarify data from Jetpack connected sites is not included.
A tweet from Jetpack on Feb 27, 2024 discloses that only WordPress.com hosted sites using Jetpack will apply to AI sharing.

Automattic also stated in their protecting user choice article that content from sites not hosted on WordPress.com but still using an Automattic plugin like WooCommerce will not be included.

My personal thoughts

Listen, I don’t love AI. I am interested in it from the perspective of how it could help in health, sciences, and supporting people in need. While there are negatives, I do believe there are use cases for AI. We can certainly optimize our processes and workflows, leaving us more time to take care of other tasks.

However, I’m not really enjoying it from the perspective of generating art, word, and media. And from the perspective of my clients – who are writers/authors, artists, filmmakers, designers; content creators to some degree, I can see how news like this can be alarming.

I feel like from some standpoints, we’re not necessarily seeing the benefit of AI right now. With more bot accounts generating AI content, the act of consuming content online is becoming tiresome for more and more people. Creators fear copycat accounts who reuse their content as their own, seeing platforms like Pinterest and Etsy inundated with AI-generated products closely resembling handmade beauties.

AI is new technology for a lot of us and it’s growing at an exponential pace without a lot of transparency and regulations accompanying the adventure. Customers are left needing to stay up to date and read the fine print (and hope we understand what exactly these terms of service are really saying).

I will be keeping an eye on WP Tavern’s post about the scrutiny that Automattic faces over this AI policy as they’ve already reached out to the head of communications for some insight, and will update this post if anything changes.

How do you feel about AI?

Since I’ve been here sitting on the fence, ruminating over the pros and cons, I’m curious what others think about AI and if you’re using it for your business or preparing to? Or, are you more likely to ask how to opt-out of #allthethings?

Feel free to send me an email, or comment on one of my LinkedIn or Threads posts about WordPress user content for AI training!

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Are you interested in starting or refreshing your website to reach and grow your audience? My name is Bree and I’m a website designer and developer who helps with the before, during, and after processes of launching and managing a website. If you’d like support with your website or business, reach out and let's chat!

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