The site clarifies how it will use the generative AI tools going forward, has made promises that stories won’t be entirely written by AI tools, and human testers will do the actual testing and reviews of products. CNETwill not publish images or videos created using AI at this time. However, the outlet will “explore” AI tools in order to sort data, create story outlines, analyze text and generate explanations. According to the memo, RAMP is the name of the in-house tool that CNET uses.
CNET also went back and updated dozens of stories previously published using AI systems which triggered backlash back in January. CNET subsequently corrected more than half of the stories that were published over a period of months. Some stories contained factual mistakes, while others had been updated to replace “phrases not entirely original,” suggesting that they could have contained plagiarism. Stories now contain an editor’s notice reading: “An older version of this article has been assisted by AI engine.” This version was substantially updated by staff writers.”
Red Ventures is a private equity-backed company that owns many websites and brands. For example, Bankrate, an online personal finance site, has published dozens of AI-generated articles, as has creditcards.com. Red Ventures’ playbook works the same across all outlets: publish a bunch of SEO-bait content containing keywords people are searching for, and then fill the pages with lucrative affiliate ads. The company profits when readers open a bank account or sign up for credit cards.
The AI policy update came just weeks after the CNET editorial staff had announced that they had formed a new union with the Writers Guild of America East. Guardrails for the use of AI was one of the concerns. The workers cited “a lack of transparency and accountability” from management with regards to the use AI tools as well as concerns about editorial independence. The policy was developed internally and the union wasn’t involved in discussions. The Verge’s Editorial Team is also unionized by the Writers Guild of America East. )
In February, revealed that CNET journalists are sometimes pressured to change work in order to please advertisers. Some staff were also asked to create ads for Red Ventures, which caused frustration and prompted staff to push back.
The CNET Media Workers Union announced in a tweet that it would be negotiating key issues such as testing and reevaluating this tool, and the ability for bylines to be pulled before the tool was deployed.
CNETis one of many high-profile media outlets who have announced that they will be using generative AI models to create stories. In February, began publishing quizzes which used AI software to create answers. They eventually published dozens travel guides by using AI tools. In April, insider announced that was using ChatGPT for SEO headlines and interview preparation, creating outlines, and adding AI-generated texts to stories.