The emergence of AI-generated fake news threatens freedom of speech and the democratic process. Newsrooms must establish formal standards for deploying large language models (LLMs) and develop targeted responses to mitigate the risk of AI-generated disinformation.
Algorithmic transparency and media literacy initiatives could address the problem by preventing search engines and social media companies from burying legitimate news content online.
The Impact of AI on Our Lives
With technology companies spending billions on AI products and services, universities making it a core part of their curricula, and governments increasingly upping their AI game, it’s no wonder that some of our most pressing questions have to do with how these technologies will impact the world. And yet, many of these questions remain unanswered.
What is clear is that AI has the potential to transform every aspect of our lives. We are already seeing its effects. From AI news to generative AI writing tools, which can produce entire articles and even novels, to machine translation that makes global communication more accessible, the possibilities for digital advancements are endless.
However, the question of whether this is a good thing or not depends on how humankind chooses to utilize it. Historically, humans have always sought faster, more effective ways to complete tasks. This is one of the things that drives technological advancement and innovation.
Despite this, some experts warn that the current pace of digital innovation is outpacing our ability to assess the impact on society and ourselves. They predict that AI could lead to a range of social and environmental problems, including high levels of anxiety and depression among younger people as well as increasing rates of mental and physical illness caused by tech-abetted loneliness and social isolation; job displacements that contribute to inequality and social strife; and cyberattacks that threaten national security.
Others, including the authors of our report, believe that digital progress can be made without such dire consequences but that a new set of policies and regulations is needed to balance innovation with fundamental human values. These include providing a level playing field for data, requiring transparency and fairness in algorithms, addressing bias as an AI issue rather than a business concern, and maintaining mechanisms that allow human oversight of AI decisions.
The Impact of AI on Journalism
Many tools implemented in newsroom today do not directly replace human reporters. Instead, they streamline critical processes and make workflows more manageable. It includes summarizing stories, creating closed captions for videos and photos, adding metadata to images, scanning documents, transcribing interviews, analyzing data sets, conducting thorough background research, and more.
But these new technologies also have the potential to wreak havoc in other ways. Generative AI can increase the prevalence of false or spammy content online, obscuring legitimate journalism and funneling advertising dollars away from traditional publishers. This content is called machine-generated “clickbait” and often uses nonsensical keywords, summarized or verbatim text from accurate articles, and fake bylines to fool search engines and readers.
Copyright holders have a chance to prevent these negative impacts by negotiating or suing for compensation from AI developers, but this could be a narrow solution that won’t address more seismic long-term effects on journalism and other professional careers. AI models require enormous training datasets, meaning that even if every image or transcript creator successfully negotiates for a payout, it would be minuscule in comparison to the value of the model itself. Furthermore, even if better-known creators can use their clout to secure substantial payments, technology corporations will likely retain disproportionate control over the amount paid out.
While large search engine and social media platforms should be evaluated for their monetization of personal information, acquisitions of nascent competitors, censorship of free speech, and the proliferation of clickbait MFA websites, they must also implement formal guardrails to promote ethical and human-centered standards in their AI development and deployment. Newsrooms, too, should develop clear and transparent processes for deploying generative AI and share their work with their readers to ensure transparency and accountability.
The Impact of AI on the Future of Journalism
Like other industries, news organizations must adapt to a world of increasingly intelligent technologies. Much as robots transformed a swath of the manufacturing economy, AI is changing information work by letting humans offload cognitive labor to computers. Data mining systems alert reporters to possible news stories; automated writing systems produce sports, elections, and financial coverage, and conversational bots let users interact with the news in new ways.
These developments, however, raise important questions about the future of journalism in a world dominated by artificial intelligence. As human journalists increasingly collaborate with AI tools, they create new forms of information work and a new way to present it to audiences.
There are several dominant schools of thought on what these changes will mean for the future of news and the broader media. One is that the journalist’s role will evolve to be more of an editor, auditor, and curator rather than a content producer. In this view, the journalist will use AI tools to automate friction-filled processes like typing and transcription, freeing time for more productive activities such as finding and analyzing sources.
Another is that, with proper safeguards, AI will allow newsrooms to re-imagine their workflow and create new ways for audiences to engage with the news. In this scenario, journalists will identify their readers’ most crucial questions and use AI to find their answers at scale.
This school of thought highlights the need for robust data governance frameworks that support the financial viability of newspapers and cultivate a diverse and trustworthy online information ecosystem. Extensive technology platforms need clear legal responsibilities to promote fairness and accountability in their AI development, and newsrooms that deploy generative language models (LLMs) must develop transparent processes for disclosing how those models work and their potential biases.