Last week we reported that the well-known tech news site CNET had quietly posted dozens of articles written by an AI system.
After a public outcry, we found that despite the Red Ventures-owned publication’s promise that all AI-generated articles would be scrupulously fact-checked by a human editor, the AI was making many extremely fundamental mistakes. CNET responded with an extensive correction and warning label on the rest of the content — and oddly added a disclaimer to many human-written articles above AI topics.
If all CNET‘s AI-generated articles were labeled as such, one could probably dismiss the whole thing as a sinister, stingy attempt to eliminate the jobs of entry-level writers.
But several insiders have now made a more chilling claim: In addition to the content flagged as AI-produced, the tech site also secretly published AI-generated material that wasn’t flagged as bot-written at all.
“They only care about producing content and don’t care about quality/editing as long as the content matters [search engine optimization]’ a former employee told us. “They use AI to rewrite the intros about every two weeks because Google likes updated content.”
The AI paraphrases, the former employee said, are designed to manipulate Google’s search rankings — and aren’t good news for human readers looking for quality work.
“Eventually it gets so mangled that a real editor has to look at it and rewrite it every four months or so,” they said. “Then the process starts all over again.”
Step back, that’s a damn accusation. If these claims are true, then AI-generated content has secretly sunk deep into a once-revered tech publishing titan — so comprehensively, in fact, that CNET Readers can no longer be sure of whether a given element on the site was created by a machine, a human, or a combination of both.
A CNET The spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, but in a story released today, The edge confirmed our source’s claims in more ways than one. A source told the publication, for example CNET has in fact been using AI tools for far longer than it has publicly admitted. One such AI system, the source said, has already been in use for eighteen months – with the oldest tagged AI content still ongoing CNET is only two months old.
In general acc The edgeAI technology was foisted on CNET and other websites owned by parent company Red Ventures, without meaningful internal debate — or, in many cases, even without much attention.
“I don’t know it was announced in any great way”, a CNET employee tells The edge. “It just kind of showed up.”
The edge also shared a revealing story about a senior editor at CNET. On this employee’s last day at the branch, she sent a goodbye email to hundreds of colleagues, according to the website. In the email also received from futurismthe publisher criticized the company for its use of AI technology – and made another claim about the company’s alleged use of AI in materials not marked as written by bots.
This time, she said, the materials came in the form of email newsletters. And like the articles we reviewed, she said, these newsletters contained serious factual errors.
“The advice was generated by scraping CNET’s previously released cybersecurity and privacy cover,” she wrote, “but after being rephrased by RV’s proprietary AI tool, this language was used to convey factually inaccurate information about cybersecurity and generating privacy tools, along with advice on how to do so, would do direct harm to readers.”
The message ended with a piece of advice: “Don’t take an editor’s refutation as a fact that all quality journalists engage in unethical practices,” she wrote.
“Ethical standards (and robust internal debates about them) are alive and well in the best journalism outlets in the world,” she continued. “I’ve been privileged to see this firsthand with many of them, including CNET.”
The email caused such chaos in the editorial office, according to another alumni CNET Staff member we spoke to sent a bulk email of their own to address this guide.
Unfortunately, said this former employee, the company email contained only the “same crap” as CNET‘s answer to the story, which was first published last week.
“Almost all of the blame for where the company is now — its massive layoffs, its complete reorganization, its subsequent push into referral marketing and AI-based content to save money or make money — rests with Red Ventures. CNETis the current owner,” the former employee told us.
The company has “squeezed as much blood as possible out of this stone with all the bad news that surrounds it CNETGiven the current situation, there doesn’t seem to be much left,” they added. “I’m pretty sure RV will keep milking CNET‘s name until the negative press gets too much, at which point she’ll likely sell the company or just shut down the entire operation. I wouldn’t be surprised either.”
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