AI, a New Threat to News Literacy

Judy Joseph

Credit: School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

February 2019, research labs developed new applications for Artificial Intelligence. Now, AI can be used to produce fake news articles in under 30 seconds. OpenAI, a research lab located in San Francisco, released the first AI synthetic text tool called GPT-2. They released this new technology with the intent to supervise the release of this new technology so that it would not be misused.

The AI technology can potentially become a dangerous phenomenon. The AI can generate articles, conversations, and fiction stories. After its release, researchers tested AI-generated articles on 500 people to determine whether they could spot that it was fake; alarmingly, majority deemed the article credible. AI-generated article will not only be a new threat to news literacy, it will also have severe impact on faith people have in the news media.

Credit: The Wall Street Journal

AI article can be produced in under 30 seconds. Hence, AI-generated fake news could one day flood the internet. Without prior knowledge about what AI-generated articles look like, people will believe such articles. The faith in the media will dwindle, and people will have trouble discerning what is credible. Thus, people must familiarize themselves about AI-generated fake news and learn to discern them; lost faith in the news will hurt the news outlets and the public.

Scientists do not seem worried about AI fake news since, AI does not have the fluidity and fluency that humans possess, and discerning AI and human article can be easy. The same scientists that produced AI synthetic text technology also produced a website that identifies whether a text was written by a human or a machine. Therefore, AI is not something that cannot be managed; however, it is something to be aware of. News literacy has changed over time with the development of new technology. To be able to discern fake news, one must first know it exists, otherwise someone may not even know what to look for. The real fear of AI-generated news is that it is easy and cheap to make.

Credit: The Wall Street Journal

Takeaway: News literacy is an ever-changing field. As society and technology change, so must people. For example, ‘deep-fake’ videos are a new concept, but after increased awareness, people now know the signs of a ‘deep-fake’ video. People must learn how to use new technology as well as not be overtaken by it. Knowledge is power. The more informed people become on the methods of developing fake news, the better they will become at identifying them. It is important to preserve news literacy skills so that people will have the ability to know what to trust.