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CNET’s new guidelines for AI journalism met with union pushback

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AI journalism

CNET’s new guidelines for AI journalism have faced opposition from the union. After nearly seven months of publishing machine-generated stories without disclosing their true authorship, CNET has finally changed its policy on the use of AI in journalism. The in-house artificial intelligence, known as Responsible AI Machine Partner (RAMP), will no longer produce stories, but AI’s presence in the newsroom remains.

CNET indicates that RAMP will still be utilized in two broad categories. The first involves organizing large amounts of information, which appears to have a more authorial role than the umbrella descriptor suggests. RAMP will assist in sorting pricing and availability data, presenting tailored information to specific audiences. This volume of work would not be possible without AI assistance.

The second category, concerning speeding up research and administrative aspects of the workflow, raises concerns. CNET editors may use AI to automate certain parts of their work, enabling them to focus on areas that provide unique value. RAMP may generate content such as explanatory material based on trusted sources, which can be fact-checked and edited by humans. This bears similarities to the previous issue that got CNET into trouble.

CNET’s trouble began when it published AI-generated finance stories under the byline “CNET Money Staff” without disclosing their origin. Futurism discovered the stories’ true nature, leading to corrections on over half of them due to significant inaccuracies. Following the deserved criticisms, CNET seemingly stopped using such AI tools.

During this period, the remaining CNET staff publicly announced their intention to unionize with the Writer’s Guide of America, East. In addition to typical concerns in the media industry, they pushed back against CNET’s plan to continue using AI. The union expressed disappointment with the guidelines, emphasizing the need for negotiations regarding data retrieval, testing, opt-out options, bylines, and editorial integrity.

CNET claims it will not deploy RAMP to write full stories, although it denies doing so previously. However, the new guidelines allow for such a possibility and the use of AI for generating images or videos. CNET promises to disclose the use of AI-generated text but does not meaningfully address the broader concerns raised by its staff. This situation arises as news organizations grapple with the potential negative effects of AI, prompting discussions on disinformation, plagiarism, and fair compensation for authorship.

CNET has updated the previous CNET Money Staff articles to reflect the new editorial guidelines. Each article is now credited to a human staff member who has rewritten the story and is overseen by an editor. A note at the bottom of each article acknowledges the earlier AI assistance and highlights the substantial updates made by a staff writer.

Such basic disclosure should be neither difficult nor unusual. Journalism has long emphasized disclosing the origin of information, even before AI’s advanced capabilities. The Associated Press has included such disclosures in its financial beat stories for years. While initial embarrassment could have been avoided if CNET had transparently informed readers about the origins of these stories, the larger concern remains that CNET appears inclined to grant RAMP more freedom for substantive work, and the guidelines fail to meaningfully address this issue.

Correction, June 6th, 2023, 11:47am ET: The previous version of this story inaccurately described how the altered stories previously written by CNET Money Staff were presented on the page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about AI journalism

What are CNET’s new guidelines for AI journalism?

CNET’s new guidelines involve a change in policy regarding the use of artificial intelligence in journalism. They state that stories written by their in-house AI, Responsible AI Machine Partner (RAMP), will no longer be published. However, AI will still be utilized in organizing large amounts of information and speeding up certain research and administrative tasks.

Why did the union push back against CNET’s guidelines?

The union pushed back against CNET’s guidelines due to concerns about transparency and editorial integrity. They wanted more control over how AI is used, negotiations regarding data retrieval, testing, the ability to opt-out and remove bylines, and a voice to ensure editorial integrity.

Did CNET disclose the AI-generated stories to readers initially?

No, CNET did not disclose the true authorship of the AI-generated stories to readers initially. They published finance stories under the byline “CNET Money Staff” without indicating that they were actually written by AI. This lack of disclosure caused significant backlash and required subsequent corrections.

Will CNET continue to use AI for writing full stories?

CNET claims that they will not deploy their AI, RAMP, to write full stories. However, the guidelines leave open the possibility of such usage in the future. While CNET denies doing so previously, the guidelines do not provide meaningful changes in the bounds of AI’s capabilities in generating substantial content.

How did CNET address the issue of AI-generated stories after the controversy?

CNET updated the previously published AI-generated articles to reflect the new editorial guidelines. Each article is now credited to a human staff member who has rewritten the story. The articles also include a note acknowledging the earlier AI assistance and highlighting the substantial updates made by the staff writer.

What other concerns are news organizations addressing regarding AI?

News organizations, including The New York Times, are engaging in discussions to address various concerns regarding AI. These include its role in disinformation and plagiarism, as well as fair compensation when authorship becomes ambiguous. The broader impact of AI on the media industry and the need for ethical considerations are key aspects being explored.

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5 comments

Sarah98 June 7, 2023 - 11:54 pm

Wow, it’s kinda crazy how CNET was sneaking those machine-written articles in without telling anyone. About time they changed their rules. But, uh-oh, seems like they still want to use AI for other stuff. Can’t blame the union for being concerned, you know? Gotta negotiate those protections!

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TechEnthusiast June 7, 2023 - 11:54 pm

cNet’s AI journalism journey had some bumpy moments. Those AI-generated finance stories caused quite a fuss. Now, the guidelines are different, but still leave room for potential problems. It’s a tricky balance between AI assistance and maintaining integrity.

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NewsObserver June 7, 2023 - 11:54 pm

The union’s not happy with cNet’s new AI guidelines. They want more control and transparency, and who can blame ’em? But it’s interesting to see the news industry wrestling with AI’s impact. Will it be a force for good or create more issues like disinformation and plagiarism?

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GadgetGuru June 7, 2023 - 11:54 pm

Finally, cNet came clean about those AI-written articles. Gotta admit, it’s pretty cool what AI can do, sorting all that info and stuff. But we gotta make sure it’s accurate and ethical. I hope cNet figures out the right balance between human touch and AI automation.

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TechTalker12 June 7, 2023 - 11:54 pm

CNET’s AI blunder caused a stir! They should’ve disclosed that those finance stories were AI-generated from the start. Now the union wants to negotiate, and rightly so. AI has its place, but let’s not forget the importance of human oversight and editorial integrity.

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