Google Is Paying News Orgs to Publish AI-Generated Garbage

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty
Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty

Google is not done with wreaking havoc with its AI yet.

On Tuesday, AdWeek reported that the company launched a program to pay news organizations to publish articles generated by a limitedly available beta version of an AI product from Google. The partnership, which is currently underway with several publishers, requires the orgs to publish a specific amount of AI-generated content for 12 months in exchange for a “five-figure sum annually.”

“The experimental tool is being responsibly designed to help small, local publishers produce high quality journalism using factual content from public data sources—like a local government’s public information office or health authority,” Google spokesperson Meghann Farnsworth said in a statement to AdWeek. “These tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles.”

This isn’t Google’s first foray into digitally generated journalism. Last year, the company demoed a news article generator to several major publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. However, this latest program seems to be its biggest step yet in actually making AI-generated journalism a reality—and one that has generated a lot of controversy among critics concerned about the product.

Google Pulls Gemini's AI Image Generator After ‘Woke’ Photos

“If you are a news outlet who has accepted this meager deal, and especially if you are publishing AI-generated articles without disclaimers, you should be deeply ashamed,” tech columnist Brian Merchant wrote on X.

“[Google is] strong-arming cash-strapped small publishers into polluting the info ecosystem and calling it ‘training,’” Emily Bender, a professor of linguistics at the University of Washington, wrote on X.

The partnership will undoubtedly be incredibly lucrative to struggling news publications that would otherwise have to pay reporters a five-figure sum to write articles. However, it creates a massive concern that these tools will continue to decimate already depleted newsrooms by replacing actual human workers with a generative AI chatbot. On top of that, there could be an immense erosion of quality and journalistic standards as these bots have a long and sordid history of creating low-quality, plagiarized content.

The news of the media partnerships comes on the heels of a rough few days for Google. Last Thursday, the company announced that it would be pulling its image generation tool from Gemini, its most powerful generative AI product yet, after it began creating historically-inaccurate images such as Black Nazi soldiers. This sparked an onslaught of controversy primarily from alt-right figures online who decried the AI as “woke.”

OpenAI’s ChatGPT Went Completely Off the Rails for Hours

The issue has apparently become serious enough that Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an internal memo to employees on Tuesday saying that the AI was “completely unacceptable,” according to a report in Semafor that was later confirmed by The Verge

“No Al is perfect, especially at this emerging stage of the industry’s development, but we know the bar is high for us and we will keep at it for however long it takes,” Pichai wrote of the Gemini image generator. “And we’ll review what happened and make sure we fix it at scale.”

The episode highlights the surprising stumblings of a once dominant tech company. Ever since OpenAI released ChatGPT in 2022, Google has struggled to play catch up in the world of generative AI. In its efforts to compete, it seems to be rushing out its untested and unready tech—and dragging us all to the bottom with it.

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