NewsGuard, a news site rating tool, released its June 2023 Misinformation Monitor results, stating that 141 brands are providing ad revenue to low-quality artificial intelligence (AI)-generated websites to support the growth of these unreliable sites. These sites operate with little to no oversight, generating an average of thousands of articles per day that include misinformation, particularly medical and health information that misleads users.
217 Unreliable AI-Generated News and Information Sites Found
NewsGuard's analysis found that ads posted on AI-generated content sites appeared to be programmatically generated, meaning that instead of companies choosing to place their ads on these sites, they were automatically targeted by the systems that placed the ads. Most of the ads were placed by Google's tools.NewsGuard defines an unreliable AI-generated news and information site (UAIN) as a site that operates with little or no human oversight and publishes articles written primarily or exclusively by bots.
Programmatic advertising uses algorithms and advanced auction processes to deliver highly targeted digital ads directly to individual users rather than specific websites. This means that the ads effectively "focus" on the user as they navigate the internet. Because the process is so opaque, brands may not know they are funding the distribution of UAIN sites because the ads are purchased through a third party and involve multiple intermediaries.
Fake authors spreading questionable health information
Some of the UAIN sites where major brand ads appear appear to use artificial intelligence tools to rewrite articles from mainstream news outlets. For example, an article published by AlaskaCommons.com appears to be an AI rewritten version of an article in the U.S. edition of the British tabloid The Sun, even with similar images and wording.AlaskaCommons.com's articles often list the author's name as Ingrid Taylor, an "author" who has published 4,364 articles since the beginning of the year. " has published 4,364 articles, including 108 on June 15, 2023 alone.
Most AI-generated websites are low quality, but do not spread misinformation. However, NewsGuard found that MedicalOutline.com promotes unproven and potentially harmful natural health remedies with titles such as "Can Lemons Cure Skin Allergies?" "What are 5 Natural Remedies for ADHD?" and "How You Can Prevent Cancer Naturally."
For UAIN sites, it's easy to monetize their content quickly. On the Google AdSense landing page, Google says that websites can easily earn programmatic ad revenue: "All you have to do is put the AdSense code into your website and it will start working immediately."
NewsGuard considers a site to be an unreliable AI-generated news and information site if it meets all four of the following criteria: first, there is clear evidence that a significant portion of the site's content was produced by an AI; second, there is strong evidence that the content was published without human oversight; and third, the site is presented in a way that makes the average reader believe that its content was produced by human writers or journalists; and fourth, the site does not explicitly disclose that its content was produced by an AI.
Not necessarily a bad thing
In recent months, several media outlets have reported that AI-generated content is polluting the internet, and The Verge's senior reporter, James Vincent, argues that the web has been dying for years, choked off by apps that divert traffic away from websites or algorithms that reward "shortened attention spans". But in 2023, it's dying again, with a new catalyst in play: artificial intelligence.
Because, given the money and computing power, AI systems, especially the currently popular generative models, can scale effortlessly. They will produce vast amounts of text and images, and soon music and video as well. Their output has the potential to surpass or outperform the news, information, and entertainment platforms that people now rely on.
But Vincent also concluded by talking about how this isn't necessarily a bad thing. "Some would argue that it's just the way the world works, pointing out that the web itself has killed what came before it, and often for the better. Print encyclopedias, for example, are almost extinct, but I prefer the breadth and accessibility of Wikipedia to the heft and security of Encyclopedia Britannica. For all the problems associated with AI-generated writing, there are also plenty of ways to improve it - from improved citation features to more human oversight. Moreover, even if the web is filled with AI garbage, it could prove beneficial in spurring the development of better-funded platforms. For example, if Google keeps giving you spammy results in search, you may be more inclined to pay for and access sources you trust."