What is DeviantArt’s new “noai” and “noimageai” meta tag and how to install it

November 12, 2022

Yesterday, the internet was taken by storm by DeviantArt’s announcement of some new services and features. Many people focused on the fact that DeviantArt announced an AI generator of their own, and that by default, images uploaded to DeviantArt were opted in to being allowed to be used for AI training (though not specifically DeviantArt’s AI called “DreamUp”). DeviantArt has since reversed its stance on opt in (now making opt out the default, which should have been the case to begin with), but there were a lot of different, loosely related ideas that were part of this announcement that, unfortunately, were missed. One of these is the release of the “noai” and “noimageai” meta tags, which will help you have more control over whether or not your art is used to train AI image generators.

How it works: a very brief lesson on web crawlers

Understanding how these meta tags work is key to knowing why this is useful to have and implement. But, in order to do so, I need to explain how bots find things on the internet.

The easiest way to do this is to explain how Google functions at its core. While way-back-when it may have been the case that Google would have humans discover webpages and add it to their possibilities of things to return for a search query (“index”), this has not been the case for quite a while. Google has multiple computers to do the work for them, called bots (“Googlebot”), which is a form of web crawler. This particular crawler moves across the web looking for sites to include as part of its index. This is how you can make a new page or blog post, and a few days or weeks later, people can find it in search. A crawler had to come through at some point and look at your site, then determine it met the requirements to add it to its index of possible search results.

Google is not the only search engine with a crawler, and other crawlers can move across the web looking for other information to index for other reasons.

But what happens if you don’t want Google to add this particular page or post to its search results? Maybe it’s a low value page that only has a newsletter signup on it, or maybe it’s your link hub page. You can use a piece of code, or a directive, to tell Googlebot not to add it. In this instance, it’s a meta tag placed between your <head> and </head> area on your page that tells Googlebot not to index the page. It looks like this:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex">

Googlebot, when it comes across this tag, will skip your page. You can noindex single pages, posts, or entire sites. You can even exclude certain bits of information, if you know how to get granular with it. All pages are “yes index” or opted in by default. You must place the “noindex” tag in order for the bot to skip the page.

It is important to note that only “good” well-behaved bots follow the noindex directive. These bots are usually Googlebot, Bingbot, Yandex, etc — basically the major search engines. It is possible, and it happens all the time, that poorly-behaved bots do not obey the noindex directive, and add your page/post to their indexes regardless.

So… What does this have to do with DeviantArt?

DeviantArt has announced the creation of a new meta directive for bots specifically looking to crawl the web for images to use to train AI generators. This directive looks like the following…

To not allow AI to use anything on the page:

<meta name="robots" content="noai">

To not allow AI to use any images on the page:

<meta name="robots" content="noimageai">

To place both directives:

<meta name="robots" content="noai, noimageai">

You can use one or both (I am using both) depending on your preferences. What this means is that if people are building crawlers for the purpose of finding training images for AI on the web (they are), if this becomes an industry-standard meta directive to skip pages and images that have a noai or noimageai directive on them, it becomes much, much easier for a creator to determine what can and cannot be used to train AI models. This is great, actually.

Unfortunately, much like how poorly-behaved search engine crawlers can defy a noindex directive, so can a poorly-behaved AI image generation bot defy a noai or noimageai directive. This is not at the fault of DeviantArt, of course, as they are not the ones creating these AIs. DeviantArt is just doing the helpful work of attempting to identify a way artists can try to clamp down on their images being used to train AI models.

This is what the opt-out checkbox on deviations as well as the settings page in your profile does on DeviantArt.

Okay so… How do I install it on my website?

This probably sounds pretty good to you! But if you don’t know anything about indexing, you probably don’t know how to install it on your website. That’s okay! I’ve got a few methods for you to get to installing it:

How to install noai and noimageai meta directive on WordPress

While noindex is controlled by WordPress user favorite Yoast (you’re probably using Yoast to write meta titles and descriptions!), Yoast may opt in the future to adopt noai and noimageai as part of this. However, right now, it doesn’t exist, so you need to place the meta directive yourself.

Method 1: Header.php on a Child Theme

The first method, and likely the easiest, is just to add the directive to your header.php file. This should only be used if you are using a child theme, as if you are not using a child theme, when you update the theme, the code you placed will be removed. To add this via the WordPress interface, head to appearance, then theme file editor. Find header.php in the list on the right and click on it. Find the opening <head> tag, and place your code anywhere within that area, but before the closing </head> tag. Click save. You can add the code via FTP as well by editing the header.php present in the theme name folder corresponding to the theme you are currently using. This method will disallow your entire site.

Method 2: Functions.php on a Child Theme

This method uses the wp_head hook to place the meta in your header. This works great if you don’t have a header.php file on your child theme. This should only be used if you are using a child theme, as if you are not using a child theme, when you update the theme, the code you placed will be removed. To add this via the WordPress interface, head to appearance, then theme file editor. Find functions.php in the list on the right and click on it. At the very end of the file, add this code:

function disallow_ai() {
?>
<meta name="robots" content="noai, noimageai">
<?php
}
add_action('wp_head', 'disallow_ai');

Click save. You can add the code via FTP as well by editing the functions.php present in the theme name folder corresponding to the theme you are currently using. This method will disallow your entire site.

Method 3: Use a plugin

If you do a lot of work on your site, chances are you might already have a header and footer plugin that allows you to add code to both or either of these areas. You can place the code of your choice into a plugin like WPCode – Insert Headers and Footers + Custom Code Snippets – WordPress Code Manager or Insert Headers And Footers. This method should be used if you do not have a child theme to preserve the code from update to update. This method can sometimes allow you to disallow your entire site, or individual pages, depending on the plugin.

Method 4: Use MY Plugin

I just built a plugin that performs method 1 (just inserts globally to the head). You can get it from the WordPress repository by searching for “Simple NoAI and NoImageAI”.

Method 5: How to insert using page builders like DIVI and Elementor

DIVI and Elementor already roll some features into their page builders that allow you to place the header code without adding more plugins. Here are some tutorials on DIVI and Elementor on where you can find that:

How to install noai and noimageai meta directive on SquareSpace

If you have your art portfolio on SquareSpace, adding the noai and noimageai directive there is slightly different. You will need to utilize the code injection area on the SquareSpace back end. This sounds daunting, but I promise it isn’t! Code injection is only available to business and commerce accounts at this time. To insert via code injection, log into SquareSpace, click Settings in the home menu, then Advanced, then Code Injection. Add your meta tag of choice to the header area, and then click save. This method will disallow your entire site.

You can also disallow only certain pages by using per-page code injection. Do this by hovering over the page in the Pages panel, click the gear icon, and click advanced. The Page Header Code Injection section will insert code placed here in the header, so you can put the meta directive here. It is of note that SquareSpace’s help files states:

We don’t recommend using HTML in the Page Header Code Injection. If you do, the code won’t appear if you turn off your site header’s transparency.

Blog posts, at this time, cannot have header code injection it looks like, so beware of that when posting.

How to install noai and noimageai meta directive on Weebly

Weebly makes editing your header code pretty simple. You can add the meta directive to your Weebly site by clicking the “Add Code” button in the editor toolbar. You can add your code there, and then just click save.

Weebly also allows you to add this via the “Edit HTML” button in the editor toolbar. You will have to locate the header section of your site and place the code there, then click save. Both methods disallow your entire site.

How to install noai and noimageai meta directive on Wix

Wix, DeviantArt’s parent company, surely has a way to insert header code into your website. To do it, go to Settings in your site’s dashboard. Click the custom code tab in the Advanced section. Click “+ Add Custom Code” in the top right. Then, paste in the meta directive of your choice. Name your custom code, then select an option under “add code to pages”. Here, you can select if you want all pages disallowed, or just some. Then, you choose where to place the code in — you will want to select head. Finally, click Apply to save it.

I hope this helps you understand more about what DeviantArt was trying to do and how you can use it to your benefit!

Aimee Cozza is a freelance illustrator out of Southern New Hampshire. She graduated from the New Hampshire Institute of Art in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in illustration. Since then, she has been working in a variety of ways completing various illustrations for clients, friends, and for herself.

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