GenAI may not expand online speech

Florent Joly
2 min readJan 17, 2024

Generative AI is making ‘good’ writing more accessible. On OpenAI’s GPT Store, dozens of GPT “agents” promise users to write better and more convincingly. At work, I’ve started noticing people’s writing dramatically change, sometimes beyond what I know a particular person sounds like or their writing abilities. Even this post could have been “rewritten with AI” if I had chosen to do so.

Thinking broadly about ecosystem effects, AI-assisted writing could lead to an expansion or a retraction of online speech.

⬆ In the theory of expansion, more people who previously didn’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas enter the ‘market’ as good writing becomes easier. We have more supply overall (but it is less differentiated). This expansion builds on the opening of writing and sharing started by social media itself and makes speech ever so valuable and monetizable.

⬇ In the theory of retraction, commoditization goes so far that it decreases speech overall. A few things could happen simultaneously to explain this:
- the amount of undifferentiated junk turns readers off, thereby removing a key incentive for writers. No writer likes to not be read.
- the amount of good writing turns writers off, especially those who do it to differentiate themselves or advance their careers.

My guess is the theory of retraction is more likely. It would be beneficial to social media spaces that have become over-bloated, in other words, Generative AI could restore balance to a system that overinflated speech.

But it could also have a perverse side. What about writers who mostly write for pleasure? Will generative AI based writing applications take the joy out of writing, similarly to how smartphones took the joy out of photography, for some Reflex camera owners?



Florent Joly

Exploring the intersection of technology and democracy.