AI could ‘undermine’ journalism: News Corp’s Robert Thomson


May 26, 2023 | 1:56 p.m

The rise of artificial intelligence could “fatally undermine journalism,” News Corp CEO Robert Thomson has warned — echoing dire predictions that people could be marginalized in a variety of knowledge-based industries.

Speaking to industry leaders at the International News Media Association World Congress in New York on Thursday, Thomson warned of AI programs that can steal proprietary content or siphon advertising money from “blacklisted” publications.

“Our collective intellectual property [intellectual property] is threatened by AI,” said Thomson, the top executive at the Post’s parent company, which also owns the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and the Times of London.

“First, our content is collected, scraped, and otherwise ingested to train AI engines.

“Second, individual stories will show up in targeted searches.”

“And third, when it’s actually an extraction of editorial essence, our content is synthesized and presented as standalone content,” Thomson added.

News Corp CEO Robert Thomson warned of the dangers of AI on Thursday. AFP via Getty Images

“These are super snippets that contain all the effort and insights of great journalism, but are designed in such a way that the reader never visits a journalism website, fatally undermining that journalism.”

Thomson cited “extreme revenue pressures” and “the approaching uncertain macroeconomic times” for the news business, which would require media companies to “optimize their operations”.

He targeted the “Global Disinformation Index and its ilk” to discourage advertisers from doing business with publishers publishing stories deemed “disinformation.”

GDI, a UK-based company with subsidiaries in the US, has reportedly created secret “exclusion lists” of conservative media companies to deny them advertising money.

“These arrogant armchair amateurs are unduly influencing agency and corporate advertising spend,” Thomson said.

Thomson, who runs the Post’s parent company, said AI could “fatally undermine journalism.” Getty Images

“No imprint is immune to sudden, random changes in algorithmic ranking that can impact your ad revenue,” he said.

“Regardless, we all depend on advertising to a greater or lesser extent, and yet some advertising agencies are unnecessarily nervous when it comes to news neighborhoods.”

Thomson said he recently reached out to the CEO of a major advertiser and wondered why the company had banned ads from running on The Post.

“The CEO said he was completely unaware of any such ban,” Thomson said.

“So he checked, and to his genuine and exasperated surprise, a hyper-politicized agency lackey received a postal ban.”

GDI’s blacklists are reportedly sent to major advertising firms backed by “impartial” organizations purporting to fight disinformation online.

According to the Washington Examiner, the firms are under pressure to stop doing business with right-wing, conservative news outlets – including Newsmax, The Federalist, Daily Wire and the New York Post.

The rapid advancement of AI has led to calls for strict government regulation.Getty Images/iStockphoto

GDI’s website states that the group seeks to remove “the financial incentive” to spread “disinformation” by disseminating a “dynamic exclusion list” that ranks media companies on their “risk” factor.

To make matters worse, “journalism is now grappling with a sudden overflow of artificial information,” Thomson said.

Associated Press, Bloomberg News, New York Times, BBC and Thomson Reuters are among the news outlets that have started to integrate AI into their news operations.

However, AI-powered journalism lacks “EI” — the emotional intelligence that goes along with human editorial judgment, he said.

“On our end, AI without EI is empty content calories,” Thomson said.

“Emotional intelligence should be our comparative advantage since we operate in the realm of editorial empathy.”

Thomson added, “We need to know how to bring knowledge to knowledge… and we need to be collectively more assertive in haggling over the values ​​and virtues of journalism.”

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