Media Companies Grapple with Transparency in the Age of AI

NNicholas November 30, 2023 7:02 AM

As artificial intelligence (AI) becomes increasingly integrated into the media industry, questions about transparency and ethics are getting raised. Notably, Sports Illustrated has recently faced controversy over their use of AI-generated content, sparking debates about the role of AI in journalism.

Deception in AI-generated content

Sports Illustrated, one of the most influential sports publications, recently got embroiled in a controversy regarding the use of AI in content creation. The media company was reported to have fired a company that used AI to write articles under pseudonyms. Although Sports Illustrated has denied allegations that the stories were entirely AI-generated, the incident has raised pertinent questions about transparency and ethics in the age of AI-driven journalism.

Ethics experts like Tom Rosenstiel, a University of Maryland professor who teaches journalism ethics, argue that it's not the use of AI in content creation that is problematic but rather the attempt to hide it. He believes that journalists, who stand for truth-telling, should not mislead the public by pretending that AI-generated content is human-made. The integrity and transparency of media organizations are at stake when they resort to such practices.

The controversy surrounding Sports Illustrated's use of AI content deepened when it was revealed that the stories in question were produced by a third-party company, AdVon Commerce. Sports Illustrated maintained that AdVon had assured them that the articles were penned and edited by humans. However, the use of unidentified authors and AI-generated portraits cast doubt on these claims, leading to calls for greater transparency in AI-driven journalism.

Other media companies' experiences with AI

Sports Illustrated is not the only media entity to have faced controversies over AI content. Earlier, both Gannett, a large newspaper chain, and technology website CNET paused AI experiments after encountering errors and facing public backlash. Their experiences highlight the potential pitfalls of AI-driven journalism and underscore the need for media organizations to be upfront about their use of such technology.

Transparent use of AI in media

While some media companies have faced backlash for their opaque use of AI, others have been more transparent. Buzzfeed, for example, openly credited an AI assistant for its contributions to a travel article. Similarly, the Associated Press has been using technology to assist in creating financial earnings reports and sports stories since 2014, ending each AI-assisted story with an explanation about the technology's role. These examples show that transparency in AI use is not only possible but also beneficial in maintaining the public's trust.

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