CNET pauses its controversial AI-generated stories ‘for now’

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

In an employee briefing on Friday, CNET management announced that 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 came with a disclaimer that it was “generated using automation technology.” Futurism picked up on the story and reported that CNET had published “quietly”(Opens in a new window) over 70 SEO-friendly finance explainer articles since November 2022. What followed was backlash about the use of artificial intelligence to generate stories – without any explicit announcement, to achieve high SEO rankings, as well as scrutiny of the articles’ accuracy.


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The AI-generated articles are listed as written by “CNET Money Staff” with a disclaimer that originally stated “This article was generated using automation technology and thoroughly edited and fact-checked by an editor in our newsroom.” Criticism that the disclaimer was insufficient and too subtle, let alone unethical to use AI in the first place, quickly followed. Now the author is listed as “CNET Money” and the disclaimer has been changed to “This article was assisted by an AI engine and reviewed, fact-checked and edited by our editorial staff.”

Initial publications of the stories contained errors such as confusing the terms APR and APY, and incorrectly calculating that a savings account with $10,000 and a three percent interest rate would accrue $10,300 when it would actually accrue $300.

The AI ​​technology was created by private equity firm Red Ventures, which owns CNET, as well as Bankrate, The Points Guy and Publishing content about finance and banking is lucrative for media sites because it draws a lot of inquiries through search engines, which are then converted into profit through affiliate links. Optimizing content for search is standard practice in digital media, but using a bot to identify and churn out stories with the explicit purpose of monetization blurs the lines of ethical editorial practice. When a media site prioritizes content to make money over relevant and current news, it calls into question the site’s integrity and credibility.

In response, CNET published an op-ed(Opens in a new window) explains how the use of AI was intended “to see if the technology can help our busy staff of reporters and editors with their job of covering topics from a 360-degree perspective.” The rationale is that the technology can free up time and energy to focus on deeper reporting and analyses.

Associated Press(Opens in a new window) has also used AI to collect and analyze news, transcribe video and write copy. That is, while CNET has put its controversial tool on hold for now, it’s not the only one experimenting with this technology, and it certainly won’t be the last we hear of it.

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