News Corp and OpenAI partnership raises ethical concerns, experts say

AI is being compared to electricity as a technology that will change work forever.

AI is being compared to electricity as a technology that will change work forever. Photo: Getty

OpenAI’s partnership with News Corp has raised serious concerns about the future direction of artificial intelligence.

On Thursday, News Corp signed a multi-year agreement with OpenAI, allowing the creators of ChatGPT to use News Corp’s content in its generative AI platforms like ChatGPT.

“OpenAI has permission to display content from News Corp mastheads in response to user questions and to enhance its products, with the ultimate objective of providing people the ability to make informed choices based on reliable information and news sources,” OpenAI said in a press release.

“In addition to providing content, News Corp will share journalistic expertise to help ensure the highest journalism standards are present across OpenAI’s offering.”

Rebecca Johnson, a researcher in the ethics of generative AI technologies at The University of Sydney, said the addition of News Corp’s data in training models for OpenAI could create increased polarisation.

“When you train a model, it picks up the embedded values, morals, world views, ideologies and cultural traits that are prominent in the training data,” she said.

“Even after some fine-tuning, you’ll still get subtle and overt bias that frequently is present in an evident way in the output.”

She said that because News Corp data is often right-wing leaning, and other competition from Google and Meta may potentially be trained on different data sets with more left-leaning values, it could create increased polarisation within society.

“Then you end up with these two behemoth, polarised models that can lead to further silos of ideas,” she said.

“We know that isn’t good for anyone and certainly not good for balanced and inclusive societies.”

Ethical concerns

News Corp, owned by the Murdoch family, has been embroiled in a plethora of scandals, ranging from phone hacking and billion-dollar defamation settlements to decades of climate change denial.

murdoch news corp

Rupert Murdoch has passed the reins of News Corp to his son Lachlan. Photo: Getty

Glynn Greensmith, a journalism lecturer at Curtin University, said he would classify News Corp as a media company, but not a news organisation.

“We are talking about an organisation that paid $1 billion for lying about an election, we’re dealing with a news company that settled for about $32 million because of sexual assault allegations over people like Bill O’Reilly, we’re talking about a company that hacked the phone of soldiers, widows, politicians and a dead child,” he said.

“This is not a normal news organisation. This is an organisation that has been proven to lie and paid significant financial penalties.”

He said the partnership raises serious questions about the principles, practices, ethics and future direction of OpenAI.

“If it wants to be trustworthy, it’s got a ton of work to do when they are making deals with organisations that haven’t been trustworthy,” Greensmith said.

“There are still fantastic journalists at News Corp and those who are actually good, decent and hard working are going to be the ones that are first on the chopping block.”

Future of AI

AI models have scraped a swathe of data from copyrighted material in the never-ending quest for more information to feed into training models, but the deal with News Corp gives them access to archives of stories from their mastheads.

Johnson said with more than four billion people heading to the polls in 2024, it is important that the public is involved in discussions surrounding the ethics of AI.

“It’s happening at the same time that we’re seeing deals between the largest media companies and the largest AI companies,” she said.

“In an age where people look for their political information and their ideologies primarily online, we’ve now got an even bigger way of reinforcing whatever political persuasion they might be looking for.”

Johnson said there must be a discussion about the power wielded by those at the helm of AI companies like Sam Altman. Photo: Getty

Greensmith said ChatGPT has been called the greatest heist in history and OpenAI’s ethics have “been less than stellar”.

“We are literally battling for the very foundations of what truth is,” he said.

“You can’t look at this like it is a normal situation.”

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