Reportedly, the proliferation of AI-generated websites is accelerating the dissemination of misinformation.

Since May 2023, the number of websites hosting fabricated articles generated by artificial intelligence (AI) has surged by over 1,000%, according to findings by NewsGuard, an organization specializing in tracking misinformation. NewsGuard has identified 603 AI-generated news and information sites with minimal human oversight, a significant increase from the previous count of 49 sites. This escalation underscores the impact of generative AI tools on facilitating the spread of propaganda and false narratives, particularly related to topics such as elections, wars, and natural disasters.

Not too long ago, propaganda efforts relied on troll farms with armies of low-paid workers. However, NewsGuard notes that AI has democratized this capability, enabling anyone, be it an intelligence agency or a tech-savvy teenager, to establish such outlets.

The danger lies in the fact that many people lack the sophistication to discern fake or false content from real news, and these developments exploit this vulnerability. These AI-generated websites often adopt generic names like iBusiness Day, Ireland Top News, and Daily Time Update, giving the impression of reputable news sources to unsuspecting consumers.

NewsGuard emphasizes that these sites operate with minimal human oversight, publishing articles primarily or entirely generated by bots, which deviates from the traditional model of journalism with human editorial input.

As an example, an AI-generated article fabricated a story about the supposed death of Benjamin Netanyahu’s psychiatrist, including a note implying the Israeli prime minister’s involvement. Although the psychiatrist was fictitious, the claim was featured on an Iranian TV show and circulated on genuine media platforms.

Furthermore, analysts discovered a Chinese-government-run website utilizing AI-generated text to support a false assertion that the United States operates a bioweapons lab in Kazakhstan, infecting camels to pose a threat to people in China.

NewsGuard attributes some responsibility for the proliferation of these deceptive websites to brands willing to advertise widely, stating that the revenue model for many of these sites relies on programmatic advertising. This model, facilitated by the ad-tech industry, delivers ads without considering the nature or quality of the website, inadvertently supporting these sites by top brands.

NewsGuard warns that unless brands actively exclude untrustworthy sites from their advertising strategies, they contribute to the economic incentive for the creation of such deceptive sites on a large scale.

To identify real news, NewsGuard advises readers to be vigilant for certain indicators. For instance, articles from these deceptive sites may contain error messages or language typical of chatbot responses, signaling AI-generated content without proper editing.

While acknowledging the potential use of AI tools by legitimate news sites in the future, NewsGuard emphasizes the importance of effective human oversight and the absence of the mass production of articles, which is a characteristic of these deceptive sites.

The surge in websites generating fake content raises particular concerns in the lead-up to the 2024 US presidential election, where the abundance of propaganda could influence the political landscape. Notably, social media platforms, including Meta (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp’s parent company), have restricted political campaigns from using generative AI advertising products.


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