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

In a staff meeting Friday, CNET leadership announced 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 was disclaimed that it was “created using automation technology.” Futurism picked up the story, reporting that CNET had “quietly published.”(Opens in a new window) 70+ SEO-friendly explainer articles about finance since November 2022. What followed was a backlash over using artificial intelligence to generate stories – without any explicit announcement to achieve high SEO rankings, as well as a review of the articles’ accuracy.

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The AI-generated articles are credited as being written by “CNET Money Staff,” with a disclaimer that originally stated, “This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by an editor from our editorial board.” Criticism that the Disclaimer was insufficient and too subtle, let alone unethical, to use AI at all, quickly followed. Now the author is listed as “CNET Money” and the disclaimer has been changed to “This article was powered by an AI engine and reviewed, fact-checked, and edited by our editors.”

Original publications of the stories contained errors such as confusing the terms “APR” and “APY” and miscalculating that a $10,000 savings account with a 3 percent interest rate would accrue $10,300 when in fact $300 accrued.

The AI ​​technology was developed by private equity firm Red Ventures, which owns CNET alongside Bankrate, The Points Guy and CreditCards.com. Publishing content about finance and banking is lucrative for media sites as it attracts lots of queries from search engines, which are then turned into revenue through affiliate links. Optimizing content for search is common 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 breaking news, it challenges the integrity and credibility of the site.

In response, CNET published a post(Opens in a new window) He explained how the intention was to use AI “to see if the technology could help our busy reporter and editor staff in their jobs to cover issues from a 360-degree perspective.” The rationale is that the technology could free up time and energy to focus on deeper reporting and analysis.

The Associated Press(Opens in a new window) has also used AI to collect and analyze messages, transcribe videos, and write texts. That said, while CNET has paused its controversial tool for now, it’s not the only one experimenting with the technology, and it certainly won’t be the last we hear about it.

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