Global audiences suspicious of AI-powered newsrooms

Business, Media

Global concerns about the use of AI in news production and misinformation are growing, with Australians among the most wary of artificial intelligence, particularly in political coverage.

The annual Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, offers a picture of the hurdles news outlets face in lifting revenue and sustaining business.

Its findings published on Monday are based on surveys of 2000 people carried out in 47 countries.

Newsrooms all over the world are working to address the new challenge of generative artificial intelligence, as tech giants and startups like Google and OpenAI build tools that can offer summaries of information and siphon traffic from news websites.

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But the report found that consumers are suspicious about the use of AI to create news content, particularly for sensitive subjects like politics.

In Australia, where the study was conducted by the University of Canberra's News and Media Research Centre some 59 per cent of respondents were uncomfortable with AI-generated news, compared to a global average of 45 per cent.

In the US that figure was 52 per cent and it was 63 per cent in the UK.

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

But the University of Canberra says there is some nuance in responses, with people more at ease regarding journalism produced mainly by humans with AI assistance, than journalism primarily created by AI with human oversight.

Lead author of the Australian study, Professor Sora Park says audiences want news organisations to be transparent about how they produce news and the role that AI plays.

"People are particularly uncomfortable about AI being used to produce news about politics, but more relaxed about its use for sport and lifestyle news."

Given those uncertainties, more Australians have been turning to traditional news and consuming more of it. Despite financial pressures, the proportion of Australians paying for news remained steady at 21 per cent – higher than the global average.

"The data confirms that quality journalism and transparency are the most important trust factors,and these affect people's willingness to pay for journalism," Professor Park said.

However, news is increasingly being accessed through social media. Half of all Australians are using social media as a source of news with one quarter relying on it as their main news source, including 60 per cent of Gen Z. Instagram is now the top social media platform for news for this generation at 32 per cent.

Globally, concerns about false news content online rose by three percentage points from last year, with 59 per cent of survey respondents saying they were worried. This figure was higher in South Africa and the US at 81 per cent and 72 per cent, respectively, as both countries hold elections this year, the report said.

In Australia, concern about misinformation skyrocketed to 75 per cent, up 11 percentage points since 2022. Australians reported encountering most cases of misinformation on topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, national politics, and climate change.

News influencers are playing a bigger role than mainstream media organisations in delivering the news to users of popular online platforms like TikTok.

In a survey of more than 5600 TikTok users who said they used the app for news, 57 per cent said they mostly paid attention to individual personalities.

The top 10 individuals cited by respondents in the US included Tucker Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, Joe Rogan, who hosts the top podcast on Spotify and David Pakman, a progressive talk radio host.

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