Google is testing a product that uses artificial intelligence technology to produce news stories, pitching it to news organizations including The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal’s owner, News Corp, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The tool, known internally by the working title Genesis, can take in information — details of current events, for example — and generate news content, the people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the product.
One of the three people familiar with the product said that Google believed it could serve as a kind of personal assistant for journalists, automating some tasks to free up time for others, and that the company saw it as responsible technology that could help steer the publishing industry away from the pitfalls of generative AI.
Some executives who saw Google’s pitch described it as unsettling, asking not to be identified discussing a confidential matter. Two people said it seemed to take for granted the effort that went into producing accurate and artful news stories.
Jenn Crider, a Google spokeswoman, said in a statement that “in partnership with news publishers, especially smaller publishers, we’re in the earliest stages of exploring ideas to potentially provide AI-enabled tools to help their journalists with their work.”
“Quite simply, these tools are not intended to, and cannot, replace the essential role journalists have in reporting, creating and fact-checking their articles,” she added. Instead, they could provide options for headlines and other writing styles.
A News Corp spokesperson said in a statement, “We have an excellent relationship with Google, and we appreciate Sundar Pichai’s long-term commitment to journalism.”
The Times and The Post declined to comment.
Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor and media commentator, said Google’s new tool, as described, had potential upsides and downsides.
“If this technology can deliver factual information reliably, journalists should use the tool,” said Mr. Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.
“If, on the other hand, it is misused by journalists and news organizations on topics that require nuance and cultural understanding,” he continued, “then it could damage the credibility not only of the tool, but of the news organizations that use it.” .”
News organizations around the world are grappling with whether to use artificial intelligence tools in their newsrooms. Many, including The Times, NPR and Insider, have notified employees that they intend to explore potential uses of AI to see how it might be responsibly applied to the high-stakes realm of news, where seconds count and accuracy is paramount.
But Google’s new tool is sure to spur anxiety, too, among journalists who have been writing their own articles for decades. Some news organizations, including The Associated Press, have long used AI to generate stories about matters including corporate earnings reports, but they remain a small fraction of the service’s articles compared with those generated by journalists.
Artificial intelligence could change that, enabling users to generate articles on a wider scale that, if not edited and checked carefully, could spread misinformation and affect how traditionally written stories are perceived.
While Google has moved at a breakneck pace to develop and deploy generative AI, the technology has also presented some challenges to the advertising juggernaut. While Google has traditionally played the role of curating information and sending users to publishers’ websites to read more, tools like its chatbot, Bard, present factual assertions that are sometimes incorrect and do not send traffic to more authoritative sources, such as news publishers.
The technology has been introduced as governments around the world have called on Google to give news outlets a larger slice of its advertising revenue. After the Australian government tried to force Google to negotiate with publishers over payments in 2021, the company forged more partnerships with news organizations in various countries, under its News Showcase program.
Publishers and other content creators have already criticized Google and other major AI companies for using decades of their articles and posts to help train these AI systems, without compensating the publishers. News organizations including NBC News and The Times have taken a position against AI’s sucking up their data without permission.