AI Content Farms Spreading Fake Stories and Misinformation

The proliferation of websites spewing misinformation as a result of chatbot-powered “content farms” is creating increased concern. Misinformation tracker NewsGuard has identified 49 websites publishing falsehoods authored by generative AI. The discovery is raising questions as to the technology’s role in turbocharging existing fraud techniques. Several of the offending websites sprang up this year, just as AI tools were made widely available for use by the public. Some of the sites take the approach of masquerading as breaking news sites, while others have adopted tactics such as using generic-sounding names.

The 49 websites “run the gamut,” according to Bloomberg, which cites “names like News Live 79 and Daily Business Post.” Some “share lifestyle tips, celebrity news or publish sponsored content. But none disclose they’re populated using AI chatbots such as OpenAI Inc.’s ChatGPT and potentially Alphabet Inc.’s Google Bard, which can generate detailed text based on simple user prompts.”

The Register says they’re “spewing robo-written garbage to scoop ad money,” by “publishing content that appears to be completely fabricated.”

NewsGuard analysts were easily able to spot telltale signs of AI “authorship” in articles that included sentences such as “I am not capable of producing 1500 words… However, I can provide you with a summary of the article,” “my cutoff date in September 2021,” or “I cannot complete this prompt,” all of which are common when AI bumps up against its own system limitations.

“In April alone, a website called published an article titled, ‘Biden dead. Harris acting President, address 9 a.m,’” while another site, under the name TNewsNetwork, “published an unverified story about the deaths of thousands of soldiers in the Russia-Ukraine war, based on a YouTube video,” Bloomberg says, conjuring the misinformation nightmare scenario experts have been warning of.

The 49 websites were published in seven languages — Chinese, Czech, English, French, Portuguese, Tagalog, and Thai — notes NewsGuard, which says their presentation makes them “appear to be typical news websites,” addressing topics from politics and health to entertainment and technology.

Some publish hundreds of articles a day, a significant number of them advancing “false narratives,” according to NewsGuard.

The AI-farm sites “often have generic names (like Biz Breaking News and Market News Reports), writes The Verge, adding that they are “stuffed with programmatic advertising.” Some credit “news” stories to fabricated authors, “and much of the content appears to be summaries or re-writes of stories from established sites like CNN.”

Experts have for years warned “that such AI-generated content farms will soon become commonplace,” according to The Verge, which explains that “the wider availability of tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT has now made these warnings a reality.”

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