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A longtime San Francisco hyper-local news site is using generative AI for the vast majority of its recent, “originally reported” stories — without clear disclosures to the extent of its use.

A substantial chunk of content on Hoodline’s website in recent months — save for a handful of stories reported and written by a few longtime (human) contributors — appears to be produced by a synthetic text generator. 

“This is straight-up AI spam,” Max Spero, the CEO of AI content detection firm Pangram Labs, told Gazetteer SF after reviewing a selection of stories published on Hoodline in March. “It is very obvious.”

Additionally, these stories are bylined by a rotating cast of five authors, most, if not all, of whose bylines appear to be AI-generated fabrications. Some of these writers have been published on the site since at least May 2023.

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There’s something more complicated going on because AI can’t actually “report” — it has no causal connection with the world. It’s trained on data and that doesn’t happen in real time. So the Chen Lung Ku story, from a few days prior, must have been based on facts a human pumped into the machine, then allowing the AI to pump out the story.

But yes it’s all disappointing. 

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