The number of news and information websites generated by AI — and operating with little to no human oversight — has more than doubled in two weeks, a NewsGuard analysis has found.
NewsGuard has now identified 125 websites that are entirely or mostly generated by AI tools, adding to the 49 sites NewsGuard identified just two weeks ago in a special report highlighting the discovery of the first such sites — indicating that the transformative technology is increasingly being used in a widespread manner to produce low-quality news and information sites. The revenue opportunity for these sites is to attract programmatic, algorithmically placed advertising from top Western brands whose ad spending is unintentionally going to these unreliable sites.
As the number of AI-generated content farms continues to proliferate, NewsGuard today is announcing an industry standard framework for defining a site as an Unreliable AI-generated News site, or a “UAIN” site.
NewsGuard considers a site to be Unreliable AI-generated News if it meets all four of these criteria:
- There is clear evidence that a substantial portion of the site’s content is produced by AI.
- Equally important, there is strong evidence that the content is being published without significant human oversight. For example, numerous articles might contain error messages or other language specific to chatbot responses, indicating that the content was produced by AI tools without adequate editing. (It is likely that now or in the future many news sites will use AI tools but also deploy effective human oversight; they will not be considered UAINs.)
- The site is presented in a way that an average reader could assume that its content is produced by human writers or journalists, because the site has a layout, generic or benign name, or other content typical to news and information websites.
- The site does not clearly disclose that its content is produced by AI.
In all cases of suspected UAINs, and as is standard practice whenever NewsGuard assesses a website negatively, NewsGuard will seek comment from the site’s proprietors, if they can be identified, before publishing its rating.
Seeking Ad Dollars – With Generic Names, Now in Ten Languages
As with the sites identified by NewsGuard’s previous analysis, these newly identified websites have churned out dozens and sometimes hundreds of clickbait, poorly written articles. These sometimes include false claims, such as celebrity death hoaxes, fabricated events, and articles presenting old events as if they just occurred. These sites are seemingly designed to optimize programmatic advertising revenue through advertising placed by ad tech firms. The operators of these sites select generic names for them such as iBusiness Day, Ireland Top News, and Daily Time Update, making them appear to publish traditionally created and edited journalism, and cover a range of subjects including politics, technology, entertainment, and travel.
The 125 AI-generated sites now identified by NewsGuard span ten languages: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, English, French, Indonesian, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Thai.
NewsGuard found that the sites themselves often give away that they are AI-generated, for example by publishing articles that contain tell-tale error messages known to be generated by AI chatbots. For example, such sites often use common responses from AI prompts such as “as an AI language model,” “I cannot complete this task,” and “I don’t have access to current events.” The sites are generally anonymously run, publish articles with no bylines, and include About Us pages and Privacy Policies that appear to have been produced algorithmically.
Consistent with NewsGuard’s previous findings, the newly identified websites have prompted AI tools to produce false or unsubstantiated claims about health and U.S. politics.
For example, the anonymously run website Medical Outline, which says that its content aims to meet “parameters of originality, credibility, and validity,” has published more than 50 AI-generated articles providing medical advice, NewsGuard found. Many articles promote unproven and potentially harmful natural health remedies, with headlines such as “Can lemon cure skin allergy?” “What are 5 natural remedies for ADHD?” and “How can you prevent cancer naturally.”
NewsGuard’s findings follow a May 16, 2023, U.S. congressional hearing in which OpenAI CEO Sam Altman conceded that a “significant area of concern” is “the more general ability of these models to manipulate, and to persuade, and to provide sort of one-on-one interactive disinformation … given we’re going to face an election next year and these models are getting better.” OpenAI operates the leading AI tool ChatGPT.
“News consumers trust news sources less and less in part because of how hard it has become to tell a generally reliable source from a generally unreliable source,” said NewsGuard co-CEO Steven Brill. “This new wave of AI-created sites will only make it harder for consumers to know who is feeding them the news, further reducing trust.”
“The opaque programmatic advertising industry has invited this new wave of using AI to generate page views to attract ad revenues,” said NewsGuard co-CEO Gordon Crovitz. “Brands, ad agencies and ad-tech companies are now unintentionally funding these AI operations, encouraging the creation of websites masquerading as reliable journalism.”
Note: NewsGuard rates all the news and information websites that account for 95% of engagement in the countries where it operates. NewsGuard analysts are rating these sites as they gain engagement, and these ratings will then be available, including to news consumers through the NewsGuard browser extension and to brands, advertising agencies and ad tech companies through licensing agreements through which programmatic advertising can be excluded from low-rated sites.
Launched in March 2018 by media entrepreneur and award-winning journalist Steven Brill and former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz, NewsGuard provides credibility ratings and detailed “Nutrition Labels” for thousands of news and information websites. NewsGuard rates all the news and information websites that account for 95% of online engagement across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, and now in Australia and New Zealand. NewsGuard products include NewsGuard ratings, NewsGuard for Advertisers, which helps marketers concerned about their brand safety, and the Misinformation Fingerprints catalog of top false narratives online.
In February 2023, the company launched NewsGuard for AI, which provides the leading tools to train generative AI models to avoid spreading misinformation. Generative AI models such as Microsoft Bing Chat use the Misinformation Fingerprints to recognize and avoid spreading the top false narratives online and use the NewsGuard ratings to differentiate between generally reliable sources of news and information and untrustworthy sources so that the machines can be trained to treat these sources differently.
In 2022, NewsGuard for Advertising began to include ratings of television news and information programs and networks using criteria similar to those used to score websites but adapted for the video medium. NewsGuard’s TV ratings are the first to go beyond its initial ratings of websites. In May 2023, NewsGuard announced that it is also rating news and information podcasts, working with three of the largest audio platforms, which will help advertisers gain confidence in supporting highly rated podcasts. Ratings for CTV and OTT news programming and news and information podcasts will be available for licensing in 2023.
NewsGuard’s ratings are conducted by trained journalists using apolitical criteria of journalistic practice.
NewsGuard’s ratings and Nutrition Labels are licensed by browsers, news aggregators, education companies, and social media and search platforms to make NewsGuard’s information about news websites available to their users. Consumers can also access NewsGuard’s website ratings by purchasing a subscription to NewsGuard, which costs AU$6.95/month, NZ$6.95/month, US$4.95/month, €4.95/month or £4.95/month, and includes access to NewsGuard’s browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox and its mobile app for iOS and Android. The extension is available for free on Microsoft’s Edge browser through a license agreement with Microsoft. Hundreds of public libraries globally receive free access to use NewsGuard’s browser extension on their public-access computers to give their patrons more context for the news they encounter online. For more information, including to download the browser extension and review NewsGuard’s ratings process, visit newsguardtech.com.