Information operations · Information Warfare

Google is funding AI writers for local UK news reporting

Is it just me, but there appears to be a more than just a real potential problem here?

Not just the fact that humans may theoretically no longer write our news for us. But if a belligerent nation, for instance, Russia, were to figure out the algorithm used to ‘write’ the news, it could theoretically systematically place information to skew what we read. If the algorithm itself could be hacked (oh, no, that would never be possible they said decades ago about what is going on today), you could directly inform and influence the target audience of your choice. 

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Computers will produce 30,000 articles per month for hundreds of local papers.

The UK Press Association (PA) will soon hand writing duties on thousands of local news stories to robots. Cue headlines about the death of news media (seriously, though, this might be a problem).

The news agency just won a €706,000 ($622,000) grant from Google to run an automated news service with the help of a start-up called Urbs Media, according to The Guardian. The project — dubbed Radar for “Reporters And Data And Robots” — will see computers create 30,000 news stories for hundreds of local papers.

AI has been used in newsrooms in the past, but it isn’t without its faults. Tests have shown that despite being faster than humans, computers can come up short in terms of writing style and readability. And, in most cases, some level of human oversight is required. Radar is no different. The project will depend on human writers to choose the stories (on topics such as crime, health, and employment) that the AI will then write. The computers will also auto-generate graphics, video, and pictures to match the articles.

Although it may not be groundbreaking, the PA believes Radar will provide a boost to local news outlets at a difficult time. Regional news providers are struggling with shrinking budgets, while interest in localized news remains just as high. Automating articles on a mass scale is seen as a practical way of meeting that demand.



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