RSF urges advertisers not to place ads with AI-generated “content farms”

The growth of the generative artificial intelligence market led to the proliferation of AI-generated websites that resemble real media sites and are taking ad revenue from them. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on advertisers not to encourage the spread of these clickbait “content farms” by giving them access to the funds that should be reserved for real journalism.

NewsGuard, a firm that specialises in evaluating the reliability of online news and information, has so far identified at least 125 automated “content farms” that are fed by generative artificial intelligence (GAI). 

Dressed up to look like media, some of these sites rewrite journalistic content plundered from real news sites. Others produce fake stories or mediocre content designed solely to attract traffic. One reported in April that Joe Biden had died. Another falsely reported that Ukraine had claimed that it killed 3,870 Russian soldiers in a single attack.

Generated by AI and usually run anonymously, some of these sites “publish hundreds of articles a day,” according to NewsGuard. There is a real risk that the Internet will soon be flooded by many more of these sites pumping out garbage that will inevitably congest search engines, with the result that reliable news reporting will struggle to make itself visible.

The modus operandi of these sites is very simple – maximise clicks while minimising effort in order to optimise profit. “Many of the sites are saturated with advertisements,” says NewsGuard, “indicating that they were likely designed to generate revenue from programmatic ads – ads that are placed algorithmically across the web.”

“We cannot allow generative AI to promote a parasitic economy that diverts financial resources that should benefit the news media. As well as an overall fall in the quality of online information, there is also a real danger of a further decline in funding essential to online media. We urge search engines and advertisers not to allow these AI-generated sites to become profitable.

Vincent Berthier

Head of RSF’s Tech Desk

Advertisers have a huge responsibility. These content farms will inevitably proliferate if they can continue to make money from advertising. The ad industry must give a firm undertaking to ensure ads are placed above all with media that are reliable news sources. RSF also calls on the ad industry to manage programmatic advertising mechanisms responsibly and to acquire the monitoring and control tools needed to ensure that these content farms do not become profitable.

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Updated on 31.05.2023