Hundreds of Machine Generated ‘News’ Sites Clash With the Online News Act

Kevin Jiang, the Toronto Star:

Just months after the advent of ChatGPT late last year, hundreds of websites have already been identified as using generative artificial intelligence to spew thousands of AI-written, often misinformation-laden “news” stories online.

As the world nears a “precipice” of AI-driven misinformation, experts tell the Star that the tech industry pushback to Canada’s Online News Act — namely Google and Meta blocking trusted Canadian news sources for Canadians — may only make the issue worse.

This is not just a future concern: people affected by wildfires in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories have been unable to share news stories with each other on Meta’s platforms. That is obviously a horrible side effect, though better than what happened last time Meta issued national restrictions.

Also, I have no time for people who treat the exchange of news and information on Facebook or Instagram — or other social media platforms — as a mistake or some kind of dumbing-down of society. It is anything but. People moved their community connections online long ago, and their hosting is migrated to wherever those people congregate. And, for a long time now, that has been Facebook.

But, while it is Meta that is affecting the distribution of news on its platform, it is for reasons that can best be described as a response to a poorly designed piece of legislation — even though that law is not yet in effect. If Meta is told that it must soon pay for each news link shared publicly on its platforms, it is obviously going to try its best to avoid that extra variable expense. The only way it can effectively do that is to prohibit these links. It is terrible that Meta is standing firm but this feels like a fairly predictable consequence of a law based on links, and it seems like the federal government was ill prepared as it is now requesting Meta to stand down and permit news links again.

The irony of the fallout from this law is that any supposed news links in a Canadian’s Facebook or Instagram feed will be, by definition, not real news. The advertising businesses of Google and Meta surely played a role in encouraging more publishers to move behind paywalls, but they were not solely responsible. News has always been expensive to produce and that puts it at odds with a decades-long business obsession of maximizing profit and minimizing resources and expenses no matter how much it strains quality. Research and facts and original reporting will increasingly be treated like luxuries — in the same was as well made long-lasting products — if we do not change those priorities.