How brands can use NewsGuard to protect themselves from the onslaught of AI-produced misinformation websites

AI-produced misinformation websites are now proliferating online. Here’s how advertisers and brands can keep themselves protected from harmful adjacencies using NewsGuard’s meticulous, transparent site credibility ratings.

By Veena McCoole and Elan Kane | Published on May 23, 2023

Brands that advertise online face a number of challenges to brand safety, including content unsuitable for their audiences, harmful content like violence or extremism, and the constant threat of misinformation about topics like health, election integrity, politics and war.

The “advent” of generative AI has now drastically exacerbated that misinformation risk.

NewsGuard’s analysts have already tracked 125 “news” sites that appear to be almost entirely written by artificial intelligence software and can carry misinformation claims. That’s more than double the number tracked earlier in May. So, this appears to be the beginning of an avalanche of what NewsGuard has dubbed “Unreliable AI-Generated News” sites, or “UAINs,” most of which appeared to have been launched to attract programmatic advertising.

These websites often produce false or unsubstantiated claims about health, elections, and world affairs.

Why is this a problem?

Our analysts have found that these sites use innocuous, legitimate-sounding names, like “Daily Times Update.” This means that your programmatic ad partners will likely gloss over them or mis-categorize them as reliable news. Indeed, NewsGuard’s analysts have discovered that brands are already unintentionally funding these AI misinformation spreaders with their ad spend – putting their good names at risk and helping sustain these harmful sources of misleading information.

Again, that’s why most of these sites appear to have been created: to attract programmatic, algorithmically placed advertising from top brands.

Licensing NewsGuard’s transparent, humanly generated, and constantly updated ratings and catalog of false narratives can help advertisers, agencies, and ad-tech companies mitigate these risks.

Tracking “newsbot” domains by the numbers

As of May 19, 2023, NewsGuard analysts have identified a total of 125 news sites in 10 languages: up from 49 news and information sites in seven languages cataloged at the start of the month. As it turns out, that number has been growing for years.

NewsGuard has identified nearly 120 Unreliable AI-generated News (UAIN) domains created over a 10-year span beginning April 2013. (Graph via NewsGuard)

Unreliable AI-generated News sites (UAIN)

NewsGuard considers a site to be Unreliable AI-generated News (UAIN) if it meets all four of these criteria:

  1. There is clear evidence that a substantial portion of the site’s content is produced by AI.
  2. Equally important, there is strong evidence that the content is being published without significant human oversight. For example, numerous articles might contain error messages or other language specific to chatbot responses, indicating that the content was produced by AI tools without adequate editing.
  3. The site is presented in a way that an average reader could assume that its content is produced by human writers or journalists, because the site has a layout, generic or benign name, or other content typical to news and information websites.
  4. The site does not clearly disclose that its content is produced by AI.

How to protect your brand against AI-produced misinformation websites

According to our report, many of these AI-produced sites are “saturated with advertisements, indicating that they were likely designed to generate revenue from programmatic ads,” signaling an emerging threat for brands, ad-tech providers, and stakeholders in the programmatic advertising ecosystem. Without a human-vetted, independently produced layer of protection specifically targeting these UAINs in a brand’s supply chain, such harmful sites are likely to infiltrate the opaque programmatic advertising ecosystem and threaten brand reputation.

Brands can mitigate the risk of inadvertently placing ads on these AI-generated misinformation websites by licensing NewsGuard for Advertising, which:

  • Provides transparently sourced, independent ratings for the 30,000+ news sources that comprise 95+ percent of online engagement in covered markets across the U.S., Canada, U.K., EU, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Enables account teams, media buyers, and agencies to make more informed decisions about which news sites to monetize that align with their values, and which to add to exclusion lists and avoid.
  • Uses human intelligence – trained journalists – to proactively monitor new Unreliable AI-generated News sites and provide a constantly updated dataset of ratings for clients.
  • Expands news inclusion lists, enabling clients to invest proactively in quality journalism as part of their corporate social responsibility strategies.

To learn more about how NewsGuard can protect brands and advertisers from the proliferation of unreliable AI-generated news sites that is seeping into programmatic advertising supply chains, contact