Generative AI and Interesting Engineering's policy on its editorial use

As AI tools like ChatGPT continue to advance, IE puts some ground rules in place for its use in content generation.
Roland Ellison
Journalists address ChatGPT
Journalists address ChatGPT

Delmaine Donson/iStock  

The rapid proliferation of generative AI technology and tools like ChatGPT, Bard, and Midjourney in the last few months has been both exciting and frightening in equal measure.

While the long-term impact of how AI will affect the ways we live and work remains to be seen, the case for its potential to ‘change everything’ is undoubtedly more tangible and compelling than many of the hyperbolic ‘new dawns’ we have witnessed over the last few years in tech. 

NFTs, Crypto or the Metaverse, anyone? No, thought not. 

A recent survey by Fishbowl found that 43 percent of professionals had used AI tools like ChatGPT for work-related tasks. Of those, 68 percent were doing so without their boss’ knowledge.

Generative AI is the only show in town at the moment. The try-it-yourself immediacy of these new tools means that they have captured the public imagination, and digital publishers have been no exception. 

Interesting Engineering has covered OpenAI's artificial intelligence-powered chatbot since its launch in November 2022. Its ability to give impressive responses to abstract questions has sparked debate over whether it could play a role in journalism. 

As IE always seeks innovative ways to build on our existing reporting, we've followed the debate with keen interest.

On January 11, 2023, Futurism reported that CNet was quietly experimenting with ChatGPT in some of its articles. Futurism claimed that online marketing expert Gael Breton was among the first to notice the new strategy:

These stories primarily focused on answering search queries and contained a footnote to say that the article had been generated using automation technology.

On January 23, Futurism reported that several of CNet's AI-generated storied appeared to have been plagiarized. Sections of stories previously appeared almost word-for-word in the publication's competitors.

Despite these issues, some experts are optimistic about the technology's future development. Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, declared in December that artificial intelligence would "eliminate the search engine result page," where Google makes most of its money.

As with all technology, the output from AI tools is highly dependent on the input and the prompts that the humans using it provide. As technology advances, the people with the most significant expertise in prompting and guiding AI tools will be the ones who benefit from them the most.

Generative AI and journalism: Interesting Engineering's policy

IE will continue to report on the development of Generative AI tools. It is clear from initial experiments that this technology remains in the early stages.

While Generative AI is not ready to produce entire stories, it can help journalists and editors correct spelling and grammar as well as help rephrase sentences and paragraphs. 

In some cases, it can also be employed to help summarise long technical white papers and scientific studies into more digestible language for those who are not experts in a specific field. 

With this in mind, IE will approach Generative AI with some ground rules:

  • Writers must disclose if and how they have used Generative AI for a story at the bottom of an article.

  • Writers must not use AI to generate significant passages of written content without human input and editing.

  • When we create content with AI in the future, it will be edited by a human and a disclosure will be added to the beginning of article.

On articles where Generative AI assisted the writer in producing the story, we will include the following footnote:

"This article was written and edited by a human, with the assistance of Generative AI tools. Find out more about our policy on AI-powered writing here."

We will review our approach as the technology develops and make changes accordingly.

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