The Washington Post reported Friday that Reddit might cut off Google and force users to log in to Reddit itself to read anything if it can’t reach deals with generative AI companies to pay for its data. But the company tells The Verge that’s not true. “Nothing is changing,” says Reddit spokesperson Courtney Geesey-Dorr.
The Washington Post’s report wasn’t just focused on Reddit — it’s about how more than 535 news organizations have opted to block their content from being scraped by companies like OpenAI to help train products such as ChatGPT. According to the original report, Reddit is in negotiations with AI companies to get them to pay to use its data, and if it couldn’t strike those agreements, it might require logins to see content. That could have the knock-on effect of preventing Reddit results from showing up in Google searches.
“Reddit can survive without search,” said the Post’s anonymous source.
We got a taste of what Google without Reddit might look like when many subreddits went dark to protest the company’s API pricing changes — at that time, many Reddit results took you to private communities, which was a pain. Appending “site:reddit.com” to a Google search has become a popular trick for weeding SEO farms and other attention-seeking websites out of Google results, and a forced login would disrupt that.
While the Reddit protests were largely about how the API pricing changes would force some third-party app developers to shut down their apps, Reddit’s original announcement about the pricing changes positioned them as a way to get AI companies to pay for hoovering up Reddit’s data to train large language models. It wasn’t until later that the impact on app developers became clear. (In my June interview with Reddit CEO Steve Huffman, he said that “we’re in talks” with AI companies about the pricing changes. When I asked for more details, he didn’t elaborate further.)