Did A.I. Write Product Reviews? Gannett Says No.

When several articles were published last week on Reviewed, a USA Today-owned website that recommends products, something seemed off. No one at Reviewed recognized the bylines on the pieces.

Writers and editors at Reviewed started to look up the names, but struggled to find proof — such as a LinkedIn account — that the people existed. The quality of the articles was also questionable. That’s when they started to wonder: Did artificial intelligence write these articles?

Gannett, the parent company of USA Today, says no A.I. was used. About 40 people at Reviewed say yes.

Some of the articles in question were run through artificial intelligence detection programs, which repeatedly found that some of them were not written by humans, a representative for the union that represents Reviewed staff members said in an email on Friday.

One of those programs, Winston AI, found that three articles had a “zero percent human score,” indicating that they, most likely, were not written by a human, according to the union. Another had a 1 percent human score.

One of the articles with a zero percent human score was a recommendation for the best portable trampoline.

“Searching for the best portable trampoline can be daunting,” the review said. “Luckily, this buying guide features all the essential factors to consider while shopping. Regularly using a trampoline can help improve balance, coordination, and agility.”

According to Winston AI, “It is highly probable that an A.I. text generation tool was used.”

Not so, according to Gannett.

Lark-Marie Antón, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement on Friday that the articles in question had been “created by third-party freelancers hired by a marketing agency partner,notA.I.”

Still, Ms. Antón acknowledged that the reviews had not been properly labeled having been written by a third party.

“The pages were deployed without the accurate affiliate disclaimers and did not meet our editorial standards,” she said, adding that updates had been published to the articles.

Others were taken down after an uproar from several workers at Reviewed.

When asked about the articles that Reviewed staff members had run through artificial intelligence detection programs, Ms. Antón said the finding that they had not been written by humans was “unfounded.”

Writers and editors for Reviewed are calling for all of the articles in question to be retracted and for an apology from the company for using a third party for work they could have done.

“We’ve been told in no uncertain terms that that will not take place,” Garrett Steele, a search engine optimization editor for Reviewed, said on Friday.

The third-party company was AdVon Commerce, according to a union representing Reviewed staff members. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday afternoon.

As artificial intelligence has become easier to use in recent years, some companies and news organizations have experimented with the technology to create content. This has led to concern on the part of some writers that their work could be replaced by artificial intelligence.

The Reviewed Union said on X on Thursday that Gannett “will put profit over workers’ rights or journalistic integrity, so we’re organized to fight back against this attack on unions and the public trust.”

“If A.I. increases productivity, we demand a fair share, not threats to our jobs,” the union said. “Workers deserve to share in the benefits of new technology, not risk being replaced.”

The NewsGuild of New York, which represents the Reviewed union, said on X that Reviewed union members “will NEVER be replaced by A.I.”

The NewsGuild also said on X that the articles were a “transparent attempt by Gannett to union-bust by threatening reporters with the loss of their jobs” after Reviewed union members staged a two-day walkout this month in protest for a new contract.

Ms. Antón said that the allegation of union-busting by Gannett was “patently false.”

She added, “Our leadership is focused on investing in our newsrooms and monetizing our content as we continue to negotiate fairly and in good faith.”

Back to top button