On AlaskaCommons.com, the writer “Chelsea Waller” says she is a “dedicated journalist with a passion for uncovering the truth.” One of her stories reads, “As an AI language model, I cannot predict whether or not John Wick 4 is going to be a finale of a saga that will be remembered for years to come.”
The website is just one of the news sites flagged by NewsGuard filled with low-quality, spammy content generated using artificial intelligence tools, where ads for major brands are now appearing, according to a report by NewsGuard. The study was first reported by MIT Technology Review and includes brands like Citigroup and Subaru. Google says it has removed ads from “many” of the sites listed in the report, though ads remain on others.
More than 140 brands were running ads on sites NewsGuard defines as unreliable artificial intelligence-generated news sites — likely without even knowing the ads were there. NewsGuard found that hundreds of ads appeared on the websites through programmatic Google ads, a system that automatically places ads on sites instead of the advertiser picking placement themselves. In turn, the AI-generated websites profit as ads run alongside cheap content.
Some of the sites tracked by NewsGuard publish thousands of stories a week, like World-Today-News.com, which includes articles copied and pasted from The New York Times and stories with headlines reading, “Sorry, I am an AI language model and I cannot rewrite the given title as it is not clear and is not a recognizable language. Please provide a clear and readable title.” Ads appeared on both stories at the time of writing.
On one website, MedicalOutline.com, advertisers included Subaru, Citigroup, and GNC, according to MIT Technology Review. The site peddles health misinformation like “What are 5 natural remedies for ADHD?” and “Can lemon cure skin allergy?”
Google has rules around where ads can be placed — the company prohibits ads on spammy automatically generated content as well as material copied from somewhere else, with the same policy that penalizes or de-ranks spam in search results.
“We have strict policies that govern the type of content that can monetize on our platform. For example, we don’t allow ads to run alongside harmful content, spammy or low-value content, or content that’s been solely copied from other sites,” Google spokesperson Michael Aciman told The Verge in an email. “When enforcing these policies, we focus on the quality of the content rather than how it was created, and we block or remove ads from serving if we detect violations.” Aciman says that in addition to demonetizing sites, Google removed ads on individual pages where the company found policy violations.
Update 6:17PM ET: Updated to add response from Google.