Gannett denies that its marketing partner used artificial intelligence for its shopping website

NEW YORK (AP) — The media company Gannett denied Thursday that it published material created by artificial intelligence on a shopping website that it owns, although it acknowledged some of the content produced by a marketing partner “did not meet our editorial standards.”

Some employees at Reviewed, a website that offers product guides, said they noticed last Friday that articles began to appear on the site that were of questionable quality and written by writers whose bylines they didn’t know, said Jaime Carrillo, a senior writer and shop steward for Reviewed's employee union, NewsGuild of New York.

Two of the articles began in a similar fashion. One said: “Before buying a scuba mask, there are several important factors to consider. The most crucial aspect of a scuba mask is the fit.” Another said: “When shopping for a tumbler, there are many factors to consider. The first thing you should think about is the material it's made of.”

Carrillo said: “It you've worked in writing enough, you can kind of tell if something is written by a robot.”

The episode is part of a dispute involving a union representing employees at Reviewed.

The union members had a hard time tracking down who the journalists were behind the new bylines and Carrillo suggested some did not actually exist. Gannett said the stories had real writers and were not generated by artificial intelligence.

“The Reviewed content referenced was created by third-party freelancers hired by a marketing agency partner, not AI,” said Lark-Marie Anton, Gannett spokeswoman. “The pages were deployed without the actual affiliate disclaimers and did not meet our editorial standards. Updates have been published.”

She said that Reviewed followed USA Today's ethical guidelines regarding use of artificial intelligence, which says that journalists must disclose AI-assisted content to their audiences.

The Washington Post identified the marketing firm involved as AdVon Commerce; the company did not immediately respond to an e-mail query from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Carrillo said the NewsGuild is about to enter into negotiations with Gannett and the appearance of the third-party material was “a brazen attempt to union bust.” Anton had no further comment.

Journalists have expressed concern about whether artificial intelligence will eventually be looked upon as a means to replace real writers. Gannett this past summer experimented with an AI company to write sports stories at some of its newspapers, but paused it when some errors were discovered.