Although artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role in journalism, research reveals that Americans are unaware of the role of AI in their lives or their news.
Technology has repeatedly transformed the news media industry – telegraph, radio, television, and then the Internet. Yet despite these developments, technology has remained the medium and human journalists the messengers. The introduction of AI has changed this pattern.
Today, AI machines designed to act as communicators generate information content independent of humans. This means that the AI is the medium and the messenger, giving human journalists a new synthetic partner programmed to help with news gathering.
The new study finds that many Americans are unaware of the role AI plays in their world, including in generating information.
The results come at a difficult time in the news media industry when news creators face historically low levels of public trust in their product. More Americans than ever before say they get their news from social media platforms that use AI to deliver their media while, at the same time, journalists report the dangers AI can pose for Privacy, Fairness, Equality, Safety and Security. It’s an enigma.
“So how can we help people trust AI while flagging companies that use AI to the detriment of the public?” asks Chad S. Owsley, a doctoral candidate at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and co-author of the recent study. “How do you separate the two? »
Using an online survey in 2020, Owsley and associate professor co-author Keith Greenwood found that less than half of respondents – 48% – were certain they had read, seen or heard anything about the AI over the past year, another 40% could only say it was possible and only 25% of participants said they perceived AI as able to write or report news equal to or better than journalists. humans.
The 48% was consistent with a European study that took place three years earlier, which Owsley said was interesting given the high rate of technology use claimed by participants in the 2020 study. For example , 61% said they own a smartphone. He expected that as people’s use of technology increases, so will their awareness of AI.
“We seem to have stalled for three years and it’s worth asking why and how,” Owsley says, adding that the study didn’t seek to answer these questions, which he addresses in his thesis. “Some of this stuff is pretty geeky. There may be a general disinterest in a high level of detail [about AI]. People might think, “I just want this to work. I don’t care how it works.
Despite this lack of awareness, some forms of AI are replacing journalists, while others serve as an aid to news gathering.
In 2018, Forbes launched a publishing platform called “Bertie,” which uses AI to help journalists with news articles by identifying trends, suggesting headlines, and providing visual content that matches relevant stories. The Washington Post and Associated Press are also using AI to act as reporters. Among the topics most often aided by AI is financial reporting.
“The way an AI machine thinks or functions is based on constructed data,” says Owsley. “It should contain the information in the form of tables, such as spreadsheets and tables.”
The AI then takes this knowledge and generates a story in human language.
Greenwood says a long-standing criticism of innovations is that news outlets often jump into the “next best thing” without important considerations, such as “what do our audience think about it and how will they interact with it? »
“If organizations are considering adopting these AI technologies, one of the things they need to ask themselves is, ‘OK, how does this fit with what our audience needs or expects or how does this fit- he whose they think we are? ?'” he says. “Rather than thinking, ‘Well, this is the future, and we have to go in that direction.'”
The study appears in the journal AI & Society.
Source: University of Missouri