03 August 2023
Google is developing an artificial intelligence tool that produces news articles. And the development is troubling some experts.
They say such tools risk spreading propaganda or threatening the safety of people who provide reporters with information, or sources.
The New York Times reported last week that Google is testing a new product named Genesis. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to produce news stories, or articles.
The New York Times said Genesis gathers information, like details about current events, to create news stories. Google already has pitched the product to the Times and other organizations, including The Washington Post and News Corp., which owns The Wall Street Journal newspaper.
The launch of AI chatbot ChatGPT last fall created a debate about how AI ought to be used in the news industry.
AI tools can help reporters research by quickly examining data from large computer files. AI can also help reporters confirm or disprove information from sources. But there is fear that AI tools could spread propaganda and cause journalists to lose the skill of reporting.
John Scott-Railton studies disinformation at the Citizen Lab, part of the University of Toronto. He told VOA that a lot of information gathered by AI comes from places on the internet "where disinformation and propaganda get targeted."
Paul M. Barrett is with New York University's Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. He agrees that AI could increase the spread of false information.
"It's going to be easier to generate myths and disinformation," he told VOA. "The supply of misleading content is, I think, going to go up."
In an emailed statement to VOA, a Google spokesperson said its tool is designed to help reporters, or journalists, in their work, not replace them. AI cannot replace the "role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles," the spokesperson said.
AI tools in journalism could also hurt trust in news organizations. Public opinion researchers Gallup and the Knight Foundation released a study in February about trust in the media. It said that half of Americans believe that national news organizations try to mislead or misinform the public.
"I'm puzzled that anyone thinks that the solution to this problem is to introduce a much less credible tool," said Scott-Railton. He earlier received support from Google's research group Google Ideas.
Reports say that AI chatbots regularly produce answers that are wrong or made up. Digital experts are also concerned about the security risks of using AI tools to produce news stories.
Reporters would have to be careful not to reveal to AI systems information like "the identity of a confidential source, or, I would say, even information that the journalist wants to make sure doesn't become public," Barrett said.
Scott-Railton said he thinks AI probably could be used in most industries. But it is important not to introduce the technology too quickly, especially in the news.
"What scares me is that the lessons learned in this case will come at the cost of well-earned reputations, will come at the cost of factual accuracy when it actually counts," he said.
I'm Dan Novak.
Liam Scott wrote this story for Voice of America. Dan Novak adapted it for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
pitch — v. to try to sell something to someone; to talk about something or someone in a way that will make others accept it
myth — n. an idea or story believed by many people but that is not true
content — n. the information that appears in media such as books, newspapers, television, movies
puzzle — v. to be confused; to make something difficult to understand
confidential — adj. secret or private
scare — v. to make a person afraid or fearful
reputation — n. the common opinion people have about a person
accuracy –n. the quality of having no mistake or error