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posted by hubie on Friday June 07, @10:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the no-surprise-here-dept dept.

Most downloaded local news app adds disclaimer that it's not always "error-free":

After the most downloaded local news app in the US, NewsBreak, shared an AI-generated story about a fake New Jersey shooting last Christmas Eve, New Jersey police had to post a statement online to reassure troubled citizens that the story was "entirely false," Reuters reported.

"Nothing even similar to this story occurred on or around Christmas, or even in recent memory for the area they described," the cops' Facebook post said. "It seems this 'news' outlet's AI writes fiction they have no problem publishing to readers."

It took NewsBreak—which attracts over 50 million monthly users—four days to remove the fake shooting story, and it apparently wasn't an isolated incident. According to Reuters, NewsBreak's AI tool, which scrapes the web and helps rewrite local news stories, has been used to publish at least 40 misleading or erroneous stories since 2021.

These misleading AI news stories have caused real harm in communities, seven former NewsBreak employees, speaking anonymously due to confidentiality agreements, told Reuters.

Sometimes, the AI gets the little details wrong. One Colorado food bank, Food to Power, had to turn people away after the app posted inaccurate food distribution times.

Other times, the AI wholly fabricates events. A Pennsylvania charity, Harvest912, told Reuters that it had to turn homeless people away when NewsBreak falsely advertised a 24-hour foot-care clinic.

"You are doing HARM by publishing this misinformation—homeless people will walk to these venues to attend a clinic that is not happening," Harvest912 pleaded in an email requesting that NewsBreak take down the story.

NewsBreak told Reuters that all the erroneous articles affecting those two charities were removed but also blamed the charities for supposedly posting inaccurate information on their websites.

"When NewsBreak identifies any inaccurate content or any violation of our community standards, we take prompt action to remove that content," the company told Reuters.

Dodging accountability is not necessarily a good look, but it's seemingly become a preferred tactic for defenders of AI tools. In defamation suits, OpenAI has repeatedly insisted that users are responsible for publishing harmful ChatGPT outputs, not the company, as one prominent example. According to Reuters, NewsBreak declined to explain why the app "added a disclaimer to its homepage in early March, warning that its content 'may not always be error-free.'"

Reuters found that not only were NewsBreak's articles "not always" error-free, but sometimes the app published local news stories "under fictitious bylines." An Ars review suggests that it's likely that the app is also scraping news stories, perhaps written by AI, that also seem to use fictitious bylines.


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  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, @12:03PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, @12:03PM (#1359689)

    Anyone interested in this company should read a few of the hits from internet search string:
          who advertises on NewsBreak

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, @08:35PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, @08:35PM (#1359733)

      "primary backers are private equity firms San Francisco-based Francisco Partners, and Beijing-based IDG Capital"

      Say no more, Say no more...

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Saturday June 08, @02:54AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Saturday June 08, @02:54AM (#1359769) Homepage

      Or better yet, where it came from.... first line:

      https://www.reuters.com/technology/top-news-app-us-has-chinese-origins-writes-fiction-with-help-ai-2024-06-05/ [reuters.com]

      Last Christmas Eve, NewsBreak, a free app with roots in China that is the most downloaded news app in the United States, published an alarming piece about a small town shooting. It was headlined "Christmas Day Tragedy Strikes Bridgeton, New Jersey Amid Rising Gun Violence in Small Towns." ___ The problem was, no such shooting took place. The Bridgeton, New Jersey police department posted a statement on Facebook on December 27 dismissing the article - produced using AI technology - as "entirely false".

      --
      And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
  • (Score: 5, Funny) by c0lo on Friday June 07, @01:19PM

    by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 07, @01:19PM (#1359697) Journal

    In other news, hundreds of conspiracy theorists - including QAnon - were laid off from /pol/.

    Hiroyuki Nishimura ecstatically declared the dawn of a new era for 4chan, with both generation and amplification of highly viral news being handled by ChatGPT as the first phase.
    "The future is even brighter", Hiroyuki said, "we are working on our own LLM, exclusivity tuned for Conspiracy Theory as a Service - patent pending. We are on track to launch the prototype in time for the October surprise [wikipedia.org], with fully commercial access to CTaaS made available on Jan 6 2025. At least one yuuuge client expressed a keen interest".

    --
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0 https://soylentnews.org/~MichaelDavidCrawford
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Friday June 07, @03:26PM (8 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 07, @03:26PM (#1359710) Journal

    So, the news orgs are fucking around to find out. Post entirely false news, and see what happens. At this point, we all wait to find out what the consequences are. With any luck, they only hasten the demise of the old news companies. I hope the first to go is MSNBC. Never had anything against NBC exactly, but when they bacame a Microsoft outlet, I learned to hate them. I hate them even more now that clicking on a link to something like the Guardian takes you to MSNBC, where you read the Guardian news story. CNN and Fox can go, so I hope they're fucking around to find out. More and more, I find myself relying on overseas news sources, because US news sources are such crap. A bunch of them need to go bankrupt, and close down. Maybe the rest will actually learn something from those who find out. Keep fucking around, people!!

    --
    ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’
    • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday June 07, @04:29PM (5 children)

      by Thexalon (636) on Friday June 07, @04:29PM (#1359718)

      The main consequences for this sort of thing should be civil penalties in the form of libel actions by the named people or organizations. Do that enough, and the posting of false claims would stop being profitable, and they might decide it's better to hire humans to make sure the stuff they're posting is accurate.

      --
      The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
      • (Score: 1, Troll) by Runaway1956 on Friday June 07, @05:02PM (2 children)

        by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 07, @05:02PM (#1359720) Journal

        You're not wrong, but you would be more right to say "The main consequence for this sort of thing should be people stop paying for their "news". Seriously, I won't pay a single penny to read a story on most US news sites. If about 300 million other Americans did the same, we would see them folding left and right. If no one is clicking on their links, then certainly no one is clicking on their adverts, or anything else. MSNBC, for instance - I resent it every time some fake link takes me to their site. They chalk up another eyeball impression every time that happens, making it appear that I'm interested in their crap. That may only be worth .000001 cents, but I resent it all the same, they don't deserve anything at all for serving up a competitor's stories on their site. Maybe I need to make a new HOSTS entry . . .

        --
        ‘Never trust a man whose uncle was eaten by cannibals’
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by aafcac on Friday June 07, @08:44PM

          by aafcac (17646) on Friday June 07, @08:44PM (#1359734)

          The main consequence of things like this should be for the news cartels to be broken up so that there's some degree of competition. The trick though is that at this point, I don't think that the wealthiest are going to give up the editorial control. Perhaps some sort of requirement that some of the news be publicly owned or owned by the employees to inject at least some incentive to cover things that aren't popular with the elites?

          The whole situation is rather touchy as there's a reason why dictators go after the press so aggressively. We may well be past the point where things can go back to the way they were a few decades with the outlets at least trying to do the right thing in terms of accurate coverage of whatever they took up.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Mykl on Saturday June 08, @01:17AM

          by Mykl (1112) on Saturday June 08, @01:17AM (#1359762)

          People don't pay for their news anyway - the advertisers do.

          As mentioned earlier in the comments, the main advertiser seems to have possible links to the CCP. This could be a worthwhile investment for them to sow discord and chaos across the US for relatively little money, all while maintaining plausible deniability.

      • (Score: 2) by cmdrklarg on Friday June 07, @09:51PM (1 child)

        by cmdrklarg (5048) Subscriber Badge on Friday June 07, @09:51PM (#1359737)

        That's all well and good, but having to go through a civil trial could take months or years, all the while the LLMs are spewing hallucinations a thousand (or more) times a day. I blame the moronic MBAs and CxOs for thinking that they can automate content generation without human supervision.

        Runaway's right on this one... quit giving these idiots money if you want to see "AI" generated content go away.

        --
        The world is full of kings and queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams.
        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Friday June 07, @11:03PM

          by VLM (445) on Friday June 07, @11:03PM (#1359746)

          all the while the LLMs are spewing hallucinations a thousand (or more) times a day.

          The best part is it's self-limiting because the NEXT generation of LLMs will be trained on those hallucinations which are rapidly taking over the internet (see also dead internet theory; once there's no-one here but bots, things will quiet down)

          I thought Usenet and the internet was pretty cool in 1991. We're headed back there, slowly, one financial-technological collapse at a time.

    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, @07:51PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 07, @07:51PM (#1359729)

      Ease back on the drugs, or take more. You got the wrong dose.

    • (Score: 2) by Reziac on Saturday June 08, @02:56AM

      by Reziac (2489) on Saturday June 08, @02:56AM (#1359771) Homepage

      You only have to pay for a news-generating AI once. It draws no salary, collects no pension, requires no office space.

      So there's gonna be jumping-in by "news" that's trying to downsize in the face of shrinking ad revenue.

      Stupid, but there you have the short-term profits/stock price mindset.

      --
      And there is no Alkibiades to come back and save us from ourselves.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by SomeGuy on Saturday June 08, @01:52AM

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Saturday June 08, @01:52AM (#1359764)

    The sad thing is this fake news did exactly what it was supposed to do. It brought in clicks, pumped out advertising, and made a bunch of money.

    Aside from small insignificant non-money-generating number of pedantics, no one cares.

    Expect to see more gibberish, fake AI generated news.

    (I don't use smart phones or "apps", so for all I know this story is fake).

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