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AI in Journalism: The Surge of Bot-Generated Content

December 20, 2023

The number of unreliable AI-generated news websites is on the rise.

Surprisingly, though the number is up over 1,000%, it only jumped from 49 sites in May to 614, per NewsGuard’s report of this week. At least that seemed small to me based on the opportunities to cheat presented to folks.

NewsGuard, a rating system for news and information websites, defines AI misinformation websites as those operating with little to no human oversight.

The websites included on this tracker met all four of the following NewsGuard criteria: 

  1. There is clear evidence that a substantial portion of the site’s content is produced by AI.
  2. Equally important, there is strong evidence that the content is being published without significant human oversight. For example, numerous articles might contain error messages or other language specific to chatbot responses, indicating that the content was produced by AI tools without adequate editing. (It is likely that now or in the future many news sites will use AI tools but also deploy effective human oversight; they will not be considered UAINs.)
  3. The site is presented in a way that an average reader could assume that its content is produced by human writers or journalists, because the site has a layout, generic or benign name, or other content typical to news and information websites.
  4. The site does not clearly disclose that its content is produced by AI.

Not that these sites don’t give reality a crack. From NewsGuard,

These websites typically have generic names, such as iBusiness Day, Ireland Top News, and Daily Time Update, which to a consumer appear to be established news sites. This obscures that the sites operate with little to no human oversight and publish articles written largely or entirely by bots — rather than presenting traditionally created and edited journalism, with human oversight. The sites have churned out dozens and in some cases hundreds of generic articles, about a range of subjects including politics, technology, entertainment, and travel. The articles have sometimes included false claims, including about political leaders (see example below relating to the Israeli Prime Minister). Other false claims relate to celebrity death hoaxes, fabricated events, and articles presenting old events as if they just occurred. 

Reading the report, I couldn’t help but wonder if law firm websites will join the ranks of AI generated news websites.

Not the website itself, nor the publishing written by lawyers themselves, but the content solely generated by AI to save costs associated with content writers.

AI can be a good publishing assistant but there needs to be an “experienced human” leading the way.