The people have spoken.

Trust or Bust

A new report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has found that a majority of news consumers are suspicious of AI being used to produce the news — a finding that comes at a time when Google’s newly debuted AI summaries keep making horrendous mistakes, while despite its obvious shortcomings, the technology continues to make inroads into the media industry.

In a survey of about 100,000 people in various countries around the world, 52 percent of respondents in the US said they would be "uncomfortable" with news being produced mostly by AI. If that seems like a slim majority, the proportion who said they'd be outright comfortable with it was only 23 percent — far from broadly winning hearts and minds.

Across the pond, the polls skewed even more skeptical. 63 percent of respondents in the UK said they would be uncomfortable with the heavy use of AI in journalism, while an even punier 10 percent said they'd be on board with it. So, sorry, Big Tech: all the money and hype in the world can't always buy trust.

"It was surprising to see the level of suspicion," Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute and lead author of the report, told the news agency. "People broadly had fears about what might happen to content reliability and trust."

Shades of Gray

Reuter's analysis suggests that audiences may not be against AI's involvement completely — or at least not for long.

Its qualitative research found that audiences are most comfortable with AI being used behind the scenes to streamline the work that human journalists do — but are very uneasy about the technology being used to generate content on its own.

At the very least, there's "widespread agreement" that humans should remain in the loop, though that vague baseline means that everybody will have a different idea of what that looks like.

There's no denying, however, that many will remain against any form of AI involvement on principle.

"If it was disclosed to me that this was produced by an AI [I] will probably go, 'Okay, well, then I'll just not read that,' one UK respondent said, as quoted in the report.

Track Record

This persisting skepticism around AI is a somewhat hopeful rebuff to the unbridled hype and investment in an industry which has damaged others , including the news. Publications ranging from USA Today to CNET to even the LA Times, have been caught churning out or republishing AI-generated stories that are poorly written and contain blatant factual errors, while the pivot to the tech has allegedly already cost jobs.

Another point of concern is that many of these publications aren't transparent about their practices, passing off AI content as being written by humans.

But until something gives, it seems that audiences aren't willing to roll over for a completely automated future, at least as far as the news is concerned.

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