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Is Google coming up with an AI replacement for journalists?

Several media publications, over the years, have found themselves facing criticism after using Artificial Intelligence in editorial operations, as it led to issues such as inaccuracy and plagiarism in their content.

Google is testing a new artificial intelligence (AI) product that can generate news stories based on current events and has pitched the product to a few publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times reported on July 19.

Google, however, tweeted out a statement explaining that this product is only to assist journalists with their work and not intended to replace them.

“Quite simply these tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating, and fact-checking their articles.” — Google

These AI-enabled tools could help journalists with options for headlines or different writing styles, Google explained. “Our goal is to give journalists the choice of using these emerging technologies in a way that enhances their work and productivity, just like we’re making assistive tools available for people in Gmail and in Google Docs,” the company added.

Some executives who saw Google’s pitch, however, told The New York Times that Google “seemed to take for granted the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories.”

This news comes a few days after Google’s rival OpenAI announced a partnership with the Associated Press (AP) to explore the use of AI in journalism.

Why does this matter? Some outlets have tried to use AI for writing news stories but haven’t been all that successful for various reasons ranging from inaccuracy to accusations of plagiarism. For example, earlier this year, CNET found itself in hot water for using AI to write over 70 personal finance articles, many of which contained serious errors. In another interesting example pointed out by Platformer’s Casey Newton, a website called Z League began publishing AI-generated articles based on Reddit threads about the online game World of Warcraft. These articles were published under real-sounding names, but details about the author could not be found anywhere else. To prank the website, the Redditors made up a non-existent upcoming feature in the game and began discussing the same, which  Z League promptly picked up and published as a news story without any fact-checking.

The other major concern is plagiarism. AI might generate news stories based on the work of other journalists without proper attribution. There are many ongoing lawsuits around the world against AI companies on such copyright concerns.

What can and cannot AI replace in the news industry: In the video below, MediaNama Editor Nikhil Pahwa talks about the impact of AI on the news industry, including where the news industry can leverage AI’s benefits and what it cannot replace just yet.

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