You wouldn’t think it could happen again — but it did. Mere weeks after a small community news site in New York State reported a murder without bothering to do the due diligence that would have revealed the incident never took place, the same thing has happened in New Jersey. The difference is the role played by artificial intelligence.
At the Mid Hudson News in Newburgh, New York, the fake news was published as a result of human error. Its story was then picked up by the aggregation site NewsBreak, which added a commentary generated by AI lamenting the rise of social media as a factor in such (non-existent) violence.
In New Jersey, a false report of a murder actually originated at NewsBreak, and it appears to have been wholly generated by AI. Eric Conklin of NJ.com reports:
Police in a New Jersey city are urging the public to ignore a story featured on a news website about a fatal shooting they say was written using artificial intelligence.
The story on Newsbreak.com [the link now goes to a 404] said a “local resident” was found dead in the 100 block of West Broad Street in Bridgeton on Christmas Day. It further dives into the gun debate in America as communities seek an end to violence….
Police on Wednesday said the story has been circulating on social media, emphasizing an italicized note at the bottom of the text that the piece “includes content assisted by AI tools”
“Nothing even similar to this story occurred on or around Christmas, or even in recent memory for the area they described,” Bridgeton police wrote on their official Facebook page.
Noor Al-Sibai has a good overview at Futurism and observes:
Ultimately, the slipperiness of this faux article’s sourcing speaks to the heart of AI-generated content. Instead of revolutionizing media — or anything else, for that matter — outlet owners who insist on using generative AI instead of human writers have done little more than sow discord in an institution that’s already infamously mistrusted by the public.
Indeed. It also shows that even as local journalists with ethical scruples struggle to be heard above the noise, operators like NewsBreak will continue to take advantage of the crisis in community journalism to crank out fake news for fun and profit. Keep in mind, too, that most of the AI-generated crap that appears on sites like NewsBreak does not rise to the level of a murder that never actually happened, which makes it all the more difficult to parse fiction from reality. Caveat emptor.