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AI-generated websites are turning into next-gen content farms

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AI-generated sites publishing thousands of articles daily with little human oversight are turning into the next generation of content farms. The sites then, in turn, attract paying advertisers and show programmatic ads from major brands for revenue. 

According to a report from NewsGuardthe number of these Unreliable Artificial Intelligence-Generated News (UAIN) websites has gone up from 49 to 217, with many of these websites fuelled entirely by programmatic ads. In May and June 2023, NewsGuard analysts identified 393 programmatic ads from 141 major brands appearing on 55 of these 217 websites. 

One website spotted by NewsGuard — World-Today-News.com, a news and lifestyle site, published 8,600 articles or roughly 1,200 articles daily from June 9 to June 15, 2023. The website found ads for a US-based airline, an e-commerce marketplace, and a US department store. The site has no author bylines or information about its editorial staff. Additionally, most of these websites even include error messages that an AI chatbot would type out when asked a question outside of its parameters or capabilities. 

A UAIN website showing an error message from the AI that generated the article’s content. | Source: NewsGuard

The ads were spotted in the US, Germany, France and Italy. However, not all UAIN websites show ads for major brands or run programmatic advertising. As for the major brands whose ads are appearing on these sites, NewsGuard hasn’t named them, as it’s likely that none of the brands or their ad agencies had any idea that their ads would be appearing on these unreliable websites.

However, they include a “wide variety of blue chip advertisers: a half-dozen major banks and financial-services firms, four luxury department stores, three leading brands in sports apparel, three appliance manufacturers, two of the world’s biggest consumer technology companies, two global e-commerce companies, two of the top U.S. broadband providers, three streaming services offered by American broadcast networks, a Silicon Valley digital platform, and a major European supermarket chain”.

To make matters worse, more than 90% of the ads, or 356 out of 393, were served by Google Ads, the largest online advertising platform available to internet users. Google Ads relies heavily on programmatic advertising, which uses algorithms and advanced auction processes to deliver highly targeted ads directly to individual users instead of specific websites.  

However, due to the lack of transparency into how the actual process works, the affected brands likely have no idea that their ads are being used to spread UAIN websites and that their advertising revenue is essentially going to waste. 

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Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah Abidi

Yadullah is a Computer Science graduate who writes/edits/shoots/codes all things cybersecurity, gaming, and tech hardware. When he's not, he streams himself racing virtual cars. He's been writing and reporting on tech and cybersecurity with websites like Candid.Technology and MakeUseOf since 2018. You can contact him here: yadullahabidi@pm.me.

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