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G/O Media, a left-leaning digital publishing company that operates several websites, is facing backlash from furious and embarrassed employees after it recently started publishing error-filled articles written by artificial intelligence bots.
What are the details?
The company owns many brands, including the A.V. Club, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, the Takeout, and the Onion. According to the Gizmodo Media Group Union, the editorial staff was informed in late June that the company would conduct a "modest test" of AI-generated articles and content on some of its websites.
An internal Slack message sent to staff from G/O editorial director Merrill Brown and leaked on Twitter revealed that the media group had launched "limited testing" of the computer-generated articles on four of its brands: the A.V. Club, Gizmodo, Takeout, and Deadspin.
Staffers push back: 'Complete dogs***'
G/O Media was mercilessly mocked by staff and readers after publishing several AI-generated pieces filled with errors and inaccuracies.
For example, Deadspin published a bot-written article titled "The 15 Most Valuable Professional Sports Franchises" that contained incorrect, outdated information since the AI system was not trained on data past 2021. The piece claimed that the New York Yankees had an estimated value of $4.6 billion, far from its current $7.1 billion valuation.
Regarding the article, Kotaku senior writer Luke Plunkett tweeted, "Simply staggering degree of pointlessness to this."
"The repetition of opening sentences makes it read like an 8yo wrote it," he continued, calling the content "WILDLY inaccurate."
"Just complete dogs***. Even straight up plagiarising forbes' list would have been preferable, because at least then the numbers would have been right," Plunkett added.
Gizmodo also recently published an AI-produced article, "A Chronological List of Star Wars Movies & TV Shows," which came under fire for placing the classic flicks in the wrong order. An editorial note, now fixed to the piece, states, "The episodes' rankings were incorrect. In particular, The Clone Wars was placed in the correct chronological order in the corrected list."
James Whitbrook, Gizmodo and io9 deputy editor, torched the media company for putting out the "embarrassing, unpublishable, disrespectful" content.
"As you may have seen today, an AI-generated article appeared on io9. I was informed approximately 10 minutes beforehand, and no one at io9 played a part in its editing or publication," Whitbrook wrote on Twitter. "That's the formal part, here's my own personal comment: lmao, it's f***ing dogs***."
Whitbrook clarified that the article was published "by someone outside of editorial."
"No one employed at io9 or Gizmodo looked at or interacted with the piece at any point of its creation prior to or after its release," he added.
The union issued a statement blasting G/O Media for publishing "computer-generated garbage" that "erodes trust." It accused the company of attempting to "spend less and extract more, regardless of how it affects quality."
Brown reportedly addressed employees' criticisms in Slack.
"I know this is a contentious issue," Brown told staffers. "You may spot errors. You may have issues with the tone and/or style. I am aware you object to this writ large and that your respective unions have already and will continued to weigh in with objections and other issues."
He instructed employees to send feedback regarding the content to his email address.
Staffer replied to the message with dozens of thumbs-down emojis, and one employee stated, "None of our job descriptions including editing or reviewing AI-produced content," the worker wrote. "Training generative AI models and offering chatbots feedback is literally a completely separate line of work that other people are paid (badly) for. It is not reporting, writing, editing, journalism, blogging or anything even remotely adjacent to those things."
G/O Media's statement
"We are both a leading technology company and an editorial organization that covers technology in world class fashion across multiple sites," Brown stated. "So it is utterly appropriate — and in fact our responsibility — to do all we can to develop AI initiatives relatively early in the evolution of the technology."
"As such, we're rolling out a trial next week that's designed to test our editorial and technological thinking about use of AI," he continued. "This trial is producing just a handful of stories for most of our sites that are basically built around lists and data. These features aren't replacing work currently being done by writers and editors, and we hope that over time if we get these forms of content right and produced at scale, AI will, via search and promotion, help us grow our audience."
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Candace Hathaway is a staff writer for Blaze News.