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Global Distrust of AI-Created News Content Centers on Misinformation Concerns Report Reveals

Last Updated June 17, 2024 4:35 PM
Giuseppe Ciccomascolo
Last Updated June 17, 2024 4:35 PM

Key Takeaways

  • A majority of people in the US and UK are uncomfortable with news primarily produced by artificial intelligence (AI).
  • The rise of fake news and misinformation online is also eroding readers’ trust.
  • Platforms like TikTok are becoming a primary news source for younger demographics.
  • But AI can also be a boost for better journalism in the future.

A report  by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism raises a red flag: global audiences are increasingly wary of artificial intelligence (AI)-generated news content.

This intensifies the pressure on newsrooms already grappling with audience engagement as tech giants like Google and startups like OpenAI develop tools that threaten to siphon traffic with AI-powered summaries. However, low levels of trust by the readers are not just due to AI-created content.

AI Hits Readers’ Trust

Reuters’ report  also revealed a worrying trend: a majority of people in the US (52%) and UK (63%) are uncomfortable with news primarily produced by AI. The report, based on surveys of 2,000 people in each country, also highlights a preference for human journalists.

“The level of suspicion surprised us,” said Nic Newman, lead author of the report. “People worry about the impact of AI on the accuracy and trustworthiness of news.”

People using news video weekly
Credit: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

The survey also found a growing concern about false news online, with 59% of respondents expressing worry, up by 3% from last year. This concern was particularly high in countries with upcoming elections, reaching 81% in South Africa and 72% in the US.

Interestingly, the report found that news influencers are becoming a more significant source of news than traditional media on platforms like TikTok. Among over 5,600 TikTok users who get their news from the app, 57% primarily follow individual personalities, compared to only 34% who follow journalists or news brands.

“Newsrooms need to adapt,” says Newman. “Building direct relationships with audiences is key, along with strategically using platforms to reach younger demographics who rely on influencers.”

But It’s Not Just AI’s Fault

However, AI is not the only one responsible for readers’ lower trust in news providers. The report exposes another hurdle for news organizations: a persistent struggle to convince audiences to pay for online subscriptions. Despite a brief pandemic-driven rise, only 17% of respondents across 20 countries currently subscribe, and this figure hasn’t budged in three years.

The situation might be even bleaker. In the US, a significant portion of subscribers (46%) likely benefit from discounted rates via promotions or trials, suggesting a lower overall willingness to pay full price.

TikTok use for news
TikTok use for news. l Credit: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

The report also highlights a critical trust issue. Among online platforms, TikTok and X raise the most significant concerns regarding distinguishing reliable news from misinformation. These platforms have a history of hosting false content, including fake news about the war in Gaza, the Princess of Wales’s health, and even “deep fake” videos.

The research delves deeper into user needs. It suggests that publishers might be overemphasizing breaking news updates and neglecting to provide diverse perspectives or stories that offer a sense of hope. While audiences feel well-served with political and sports news, there’s a gap in local news coverage in some countries, along with a need for more in-depth health and education reporting.

How AI Is Changing Journalism

While concerns linger, AI offers potential benefits for newsrooms. A Columbia Journalism School report  highlights increased efficiency as a key driver of AI adoption. Examples include dynamic paywalls, automated transcription, and data analysis tools that streamline news production.

However, these gains come with limitations. AI outputs can be unreliable, raise reputational risks if inaccurate, and some tasks remain difficult to automate.

News organizations are embracing AI due to several factors: technological advancements, as AI has become more accessible and powerful; financial pressures, as the struggling industry seeks cost-cutting solutions; competition, given that innovation is key to staying ahead in a crowded landscape; and uncertainty and hype, as the potential of AI creates a compelling narrative for investors and stakeholders.

A pivotal role in building the relationship between AI and journalism is played by OpenAI. A recent deal between OpenAI and News Corp (including The Wall Street Journal and The Times) exemplifies a growing trend: AI companies are hungry for high-quality journalistic data to train their systems. Similar deals with the Financial Times  and Axel Springer highlight this trend.

While these deals might offer short-term benefits for news outlets, the long-term outlook remains concerning. If readers rely on AI tools for news summaries, it could bypass traditional publications altogether. This could cripple traffic-driven ad revenue, leading to a new media crisis.

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