Search engine giant Google is reportedly testing a new tool powered by artificial intelligence (AI) capable of analyzing information on current events and generating news stories.
The New York Times (NYT) expounded on Google’s new tool called Genesis, which the tech giant describes as a potential game-changer. According to the company, Genesis offers journalists a kind of personal assistant that could automate certain tasks and free up time for more in-depth reporting.
“AI-enabled tools [such as Genesis] could assist journalists with options for headlines or different writing styles,” said Google spokeswoman Jenn Crider. “Our goal is to give journalists the choice of using these emerging technologies in a way that enhances their work and productivity, just like we’re making assistive tools available for people in Gmail and Google Docs.”
According to her, the tech giant has pitched to news publishers – including smaller publishers – to explore new ideas and help journalists. Crider added: “Quite simply, these tools are not intended to – and cannot – replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles.” (Related: Google unveils plan to use AI to completely destroy journalism.)
One anonymous source confirmed that Genesis would be launched to major news organizations, such as the NYT, the Washington Post (WaPo) and the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
“We have an excellent relationship with Google, and we appreciate [Alphabet and Google CEO] Sundar Pichai’s long-term commitment to journalism,” said a spokesperson for News Corp., the owner of WSJ. Both the NYT and WaPo refused to comment.
AI in journalism a hotly-debated topic
The use of AI-enabled tools such as Genesis in newsrooms has been a topic of debate among media organizations worldwide. Some news outlets have expressed their intentions to explore responsible uses of AI in journalism. However, Genesis has instead raised anxiety among journalists, who fear that widespread adoption of AI for article generation might lead to misinformation and alter the perception of traditionally written stories.
According to renowned journalism professor and media commentator Jeff Jarvis, the new AI-enabled tool of Google has upsides and downsides. He stated: “If this technology can deliver factual information reliably, journalists should use the tool.”
However, Jarvis emphasized the importance of responsible application, particularly on topics that demand nuance and cultural understanding. He warned that misusing Genesis “could damage the credibility not only of the tool, but of the news organizations that use it.”
While Google has been quick to develop and deploy generative AI, it faced challenges with ensuring accuracy and responsible content curation.
Bard, a chatbot tool introduced by Google, has occasionally presented inaccurate information and failed to direct users to authoritative news sources. Additionally, the WSJ exposed the flaws of AI-enabled tools of Google for hospitals. These tools, the outlet said, delivered more inaccuracies and irrelevant information in its responses compared to real doctors in diagnostics.
The media industry as a whole has long-standing issues with Google, with the Accelerated Mobile Pages fiasco and Gannett’s lawsuit against Google for alleged ad tech monopolies hurting local news serving as proof of this. Likewise, AI companies including Google are using years of news articles and content to train their AI system without compensating the publishers. Given this, news organizations such as NBC News and NYT have spoken out against AI bots using their data without permission.
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