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Robot publishes error-filled article on Gizmodo website

Storm troopers from the film franchise "Star Wars." (Photo by Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons)
Storm troopers from the film franchise “Star Wars.” (Photo by Sam Howzit via Wikimedia Commons)

An editor with Gizmodo’s entertainment vertical io9 said the website’s editorial staff was not involved in the creation of an error-filled article that was written by a robot and published online this week.

The article, titled “A Chronological List of Star Wars Movies & TV Shows,” did not correctly list movies and series from the film franchise in chronological order and contained numerous other inaccuracies.

The story was written by a robot that used machine-learning applications powered by artificial intelligence. The article carried the byline of “Gizmodo Bot,” which appears to be a new tool that editors at the website were not previously aware would be publishing content until it did.

No one at Gizmodo had an opportunity to fact-check or otherwise review the story before it hit the Internet, according to a deputy editor with the website.

“As you may have seen today, an AI-generated article appeared on io9,” the editor, James Whitbrook, said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I was informed approximately 10 minutes beforehand, and no one at io9 played a part in its editing or publication.”

Whitbrook said he reached out to Gizmodo’s parent company, G/O Media, with a “lengthy list of corrections,” as well as a complaint that the article written and published by Gizmodo Bot was not in line with the company’s editorial standards.

“It is shoddily written, it is riddled with basic errors; in closing the comments section off, it denies our readers, the lifeblood of this network, the chance to publicly hold us accountable, and to call this work exactly what it is: embarrassing, unpublishable, disrespectful of both the audience and the people who work here, and a blow to our authority and integrity,” Whitbrook said.

He went on to call the article a “shameful” example of what “our audience and…our peers” can expect from G/O Media in the future, “and it is shameful that we as a team have had to spend an egregious amount of time away from our actual work to make it clear to you the unacceptable errors made in publishing this piece.”

“LOL, it’s f-cking dogs-it,” he concluded, using language that The Desk cannot repeat because they trigger certain offensive language filters used by our advertising partners (thanks, robots).

Officials with G/O Media have yet to comment on the matter.

The incident is the latest involving machine learning tools that have been allowed to publish content online without editorial scrutiny. Earlier this year, several features on Red Ventures-owned tech publication CNET were amended or pulled after the website Futurism revealed them to contain plagiarized passages and inaccurate information. CNET was acquired by Red Ventures from Paramount Global in 2020.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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