CNET Published AI-Generated Stories. Then Its Staff Pushed Back


In November, venerable tech outlet CNET started publishing articles generated by synthetic intelligence, on matters resembling private finance, that proved to be riddled with errors. At this time the human members of its editorial employees have unionized, calling on their bosses to supply higher situations for staff and extra transparency and accountability round using AI.

“On this time of instability, our various content material groups want industry-standard job protections, truthful compensation, editorial independence, and a voice within the decisionmaking course of, particularly as automated know-how threatens our jobs and reputations,” reads the mission assertion of the CNET Media Staff Union, whose greater than 100 members embody writers, editors, video producers, and different content material creators.

Whereas the organizing effort began earlier than CNET administration started its AI rollout, its workers may turn into one of many first unions to power its bosses to set guardrails round using content material produced by generative AI companies like ChatGPT. Any settlement struck with CNET’s mother or father firm, Pink Ventures, may assist set a precedent for a way firms strategy the know-how. A number of digital media shops have lately slashed employees, with some like BuzzFeed and Sports Illustrated on the identical time embracing AI-generated content material. Pink Ventures didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

In Hollywood, AI-generated writing has prompted a employee rebellion. Striking screenwriters need studios to agree to ban AI authorship and to by no means ask writers to adapt AI-generated scripts. The Alliance of Movement Image and Tv Producers rejected that proposal, as a substitute providing to carry annual conferences to debate technological developments. The screenwriters and CNET’s employees are each represented by the Writers Guild of America.

Whereas CNET payments itself as “your information to a greater future,” the 30-year-old publication late final yr stumbled clumsily into the brand new world of generative AI that may create text or images. In January, the science and tech web site Futurism revealed that in November, CNET had quietly began publishing AI-authored explainers resembling “What Is Zelle and How Does it Work?” The tales ran underneath the byline “CNET Cash Workers,” and readers needed to hover their cursor over it to study that the articles had been written “utilizing automation know-how.”

A torrent of embarrassing disclosures adopted. The Verge reported that greater than half of the AI-generated tales contained factual errors, main CNET to difficulty sometimes lengthy corrections on 41 out of its 77 bot-written articles. The instrument that editors used additionally appeared to have plagiarized work from competing information shops, as generative AI is wont to do.

Then-editor-in-chief Connie Guglielmo later wrote {that a} plagiarism-detection instrument had been misused or failed and that the location was growing further checks. One former staffer demanded that her byline be excised from the location, involved that AI could be used to replace her tales in an effort to lure extra visitors from Google search outcomes.

In response to the unfavorable consideration to CNET’s AI venture, Guglielmo printed an article saying that the outlet had been testing an “internally designed AI engine” and that “AI engines, like people, make errors.” Nonetheless, she vowed to make some adjustments to the location’s disclosure and quotation insurance policies and forge forward with its experiment in robotic authorship. In March, she stepped down from her position as editor in chief and now heads up the outlet’s AI edit technique.

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