CNET pauses its controversial AI-generated stories ‘for now’

CNET pauses its controversial AI-generated stories ‘for now’

CNET pauses its controversial AI-generated stories ‘for now’

CNET hit the pause button on its controversial article-writing bot.

In a call to staff on Friday, CNET leadership announced that it would stop using artificial intelligence to write articles “for now,” according to The Verge.(opens in a new window). Last week, online marketing expert Gael Breton tweeted(opens in a new window) that a CNET article on financial planning came with a disclaimer that it was “generated using automation technology”. Futurism picked up on the story, reporting that CNET was “publishing quietly”(opens in a new window) 70+ SEO friendly explanatory articles on finance from November 2022. What followed was a backlash on using artificial intelligence to generate stories – without some kind of explicit ad, to achieve an SEO ranking high, as well as scrutiny on the accuracy of the articles.


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AI-generated articles are listed as being written by “CNET Money Staff” with a disclaimer originally saying “This article was generated using automation technology and has been completely edited and verified by an editor on our editorial team”. Criticisms that the warning was insufficient and too subtle, let alone unethical to use AI in the first place, quickly followed. The author is now listed as “CNET Money” and the disclaimer has changed to “This article was watched by an AI engine and reviewed, verified and edited by our editorial team”.

The original publications of the stories contained errors such as confusing the terms APR and APY and incorrectly calculating that a savings account with $10,000 and an interest rate of three percent would accumulate $10,300 when it would actually accumulate $300.

The AI ​​technology was created by private equity firm Red Ventures, which owns CNET, as well as Bankrate, The Points Guy and Publishing content about finance and banking is profitable for media sites because it attracts a lot of searches through search engines, which are converted into profit through affiliate links. Optimizing content for search is standard practice in digital media, but using a bot to identify and produce stories for the explicit purpose of monetization blurs the lines of ethical editorial practice. When a media site prioritizes profitable content over relevant and timely news, it calls the integrity and credibility of the site into question.

In response, CNET published a post(opens in a new window) explaining how the use of AI was planned “to see if the technology can help our busy team of reporters and editors in their work to cover topics from a 360-degree perspective”. The rationale is that technology can free up time and energy to focus on deeper reporting and analysis.

The Associated Press(opens in a new window) it has also been using AI to collect and analyze news, transcribe videos and write texts. Which is to say, while CNET has paused its controversial tool for now, it’s not the only one experimenting with this technology, and it certainly won’t be the last we hear of it.

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