Global Audiences Show Skepticism Towards AI-Powered Newsrooms

Global concerns about AI in news production and the spread of misinformation are on the rise, with Australians being particularly wary, especially regarding political coverage. According to the annual Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, news outlets face significant challenges in increasing revenue and sustaining their businesses.

The report, based on surveys of 2,000 people across 47 countries, highlights the growing skepticism towards AI-generated news content, particularly for sensitive subjects like politics. This skepticism is most pronounced in Australia, where a study by the University of Canberra’s News and Media Research Centre found that 59 percent of respondents were uncomfortable with AI-generated news, compared to a global average of 45 percent. In the US, 52 percent of respondents expressed discomfort, while in the UK, the figure was 63 percent.

Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute and lead author of the Digital News Report, noted the surprising level of suspicion towards AI in news production. “People broadly had fears about what might happen to content reliability and trust,” he said.

The University of Canberra’s findings indicate that people are more comfortable with journalism that is primarily produced by humans with AI assistance rather than journalism mainly created by AI with human oversight. Professor Sora Park, lead author of the Australian study, emphasized that audiences want transparency from news organizations about how they produce news and the role AI plays in that process. “People are particularly uncomfortable about AI being used to produce news about politics, but more relaxed about its use for sport and lifestyle news,” Park said.

In response to these uncertainties, more Australians are turning to traditional news sources and consuming more of it. Despite financial pressures, the proportion of Australians paying for news has remained steady at 21 percent, higher than the global average. “The data confirms that quality journalism and transparency are the most important trust factors, and these affect people’s willingness to pay for journalism,” Park added.

However, social media remains a significant source of news. Half of all Australians use social media for news, with one-quarter relying on it as their main news source. Among Gen Z, 60 percent use social media for news, with Instagram being the top platform at 32 percent.

Globally, concerns about false news content online have increased, with 59 percent of survey respondents expressing worry, up three percentage points from last year. This concern is particularly high in South Africa and the US, at 81 percent and 72 percent, respectively, as both countries prepare for elections this year.

In Australia, concern about misinformation has surged to 75 percent, an 11 percentage point increase since 2022. Australians reported encountering misinformation on topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, national politics, and climate change.

The role of news influencers is growing, especially on platforms like TikTok. A survey of over 5,600 TikTok users who use the app for news found that 57 percent primarily follow individual personalities. In the US, popular figures cited by respondents included former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson, podcaster Joe Rogan, and progressive talk radio host David Pakman.

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