In the era of digital misinformation, the rise of generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools has added a new layer of complexity to the problem. NewsGuard, a company that provides tools for vetting news sources, has identified 301 unreliable AI-generated news and information websites operating with little to no human oversight. These sites, which often have generic names resembling established news outlets, publish articles predominantly or entirely created by AI bots.
The content ranges from politics and technology to entertainment and travel, with some articles containing false claims and fabricated events. One of the challenges posed by these websites is their revenue model, which takes advantage of programmatic advertising. As a result, top brands unintentionally support these sites, incentivizing their creation on a larger scale.
The Revenue Model: Programmatic Advertising
The revenue model for these websites relies on programmatic advertising, which delivers ads without considering the quality or nature of the site. Programmatic advertising is a type of online advertising where ads are automatically placed on websites based on a variety of factors, such as the user’s interests and demographics.
Consequently, major brands unknowingly support these sites, creating economic incentives for their proliferation. To combat this issue, NewsGuard has established an AI Tracking Center to raise awareness about the use of generative AI in misinformation campaigns. The center provides reports, insights, and debunks related to AI-generated content.
According to The Verge, the emergence of generative AI tools has made it easier and cheaper to produce low-quality content. SpeedyBrand, a company backed by Y Combinator, utilizes generative AI to create SEO-optimized content. While its customer base is currently small, it exemplifies the changing landscape of the web.
The abuse of programmatic advertising by these sites is a significant problem for advertisers and other legitimate companies that rely on it. Newsguard’s report revealed that ads from 141 major brands appeared on 55 junk news sites, totaling close to 400 instances, and that’s only the ones they saw first hand.
The impact of AI-generated content extends beyond advertisers. It poses a threat to consumers, who may encounter false information due to the sheer volume of AI-generated articles. The challenge lies in the difficulty of detecting and addressing these sites, as the AI field is evolving rapidly and the scale of AI-generated content is virtually limitless.
The Difficulty of Detection and Addressing
The barriers to entry for content farms utilizing AI-generated content are remarkably low, leading to an influx of unreliable sources. Google, one of the major players in the advertising ecosystem, struggles to keep pace with the increasing number of spam sites exploiting AI-generated content.
The company claims to enforce policies to prevent ads from running alongside low-value or harmful content. However, these policies do not explicitly address AI-generated content as a violation.
The impact of AI-generated content on legitimate websites is difficult to gauge. Companies like Google and Meta keep their advertising systems opaque, making it challenging for brands to know where their ads are being placed.
While the cost per 1,000 impressions has decreased, the prevalence of AI-generated content raises concerns about ad revenue being directed to spam sites instead of legitimate platforms. This phenomenon not only affects advertisers and brands but also threatens the overall health of the internet.
The decisions made regarding AI-generated content will shape the future of the web. Search engines, ad platforms, and content curators need to take proactive measures to combat the spread of misinformation.
It is important to educate advertisers and publishers about the risks of programmatic advertising and how to protect themselves from abuse. This includes being aware of the signs of low-quality AI-generated content and knowing how to report it to the appropriate authorities.
Failure to address this issue could result in a web overwhelmed by low-quality content and the downfall of programmatic advertising. It is crucial to act now to preserve the reliability and integrity of online information and advertising ecosystems.
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