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Importance of not misleading the public stressed in charter for AI in journalism

“Media outlets must avoid misleading the public in their use of AI technologies. In particular, they should refrain from creating or using AI-generated content mimicking real-world captures and recordings or realistically impersonating actual individuals”, states a charter on artificial intelligence and journalism written by a commission brought together by RSF and  chaired by Maria Ressa who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021. 

“Responsibilities tied to the use of AI systems should be anticipated, outlined, and assigned to humans to ensure adherence to journalistic ethics and editorial guidelines”, the charter says. 

The commission, writing the charter, comprised 32 persons from 20 different countries who are specialists in journalism or AI. The goal was to determine a set of fundamental ethical principles to protect the integrity of news and information in the AI age, when these technologies are poised to transform the media industry.

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The charter defines ten key principles for safeguarding the integrity of information and preserving journalism’s social role. Inter alia, the core principles state:

  • Ethics must govern technological choices within the media;
  • Human agency must remain central in editorial decisions;
  • The media must help society to distinguish between authentic and synthetic content with confidence;
  • The media must participate in global AI governance and defend the viability of journalism when negotiating with tech companies.

“Technological innovation doesn’t inherently lead to progress: it must be steered by ethics to truly benefit humanity. To safeguard the right to information, journalists and news organisations must join forces to ensure ethics guide the governance and use of the most transformative technology of our time. The Paris Charter on AI and Journalism is a significant step towards this goal.” 

Maria Ressa says that artificial intelligence could provide remarkable services to humanity but it clearly has the potential to amplify the manipulation of minds to proportions unprecedented in history. 

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“Factual evidence, a clear distinction between authentic and synthetic content, editorial independence and human responsibility will be the primary guarantees for the right to reliable news and information in the AI era. More than ever, journalism requires a sound and widely recognised ethical foundation.” 

Christophe Deloire, RSF secretary-general, stressed that by endorsing the Charter media companies will not allow new technology to divert them from their mission of serving the public interest. 

“The Charter promotes an approach in which human judgment and journalistic ethics constitute the pillars of journalism’s social function as a trusted third party.”

From the charter

 “The social role of journalism and media outlets —serving as trustworthy intermediaries for society and individuals— is a cornerstone of democracy and enhances the right to information for all. AI systems can greatly assist media outlets in fulfilling this role, but only if they are used transparently, fairly and responsibly in an editorial environment that staunchly upholds journalistic ethics. In affirming these principles, we uphold the right to information, champion independent journalism, and commit to trustworthy news and media outlets in the era of AI.”

“Human decision-making must remain central to both long-term strategies and daily editorial choices. The use of AI systems should be a deliberate and well-informed decision made by humans. Editorial teams must clearly define the goals, scope, and usage conditions for each AI system. They must ensure a cross-sectional and continuous oversight of the impacts of deployed AI systems, ensure their strict compliance with their usage framework, and retain the ability to deactivate them at any time.”

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“The AI systems used by the media and journalists should undergo an independent, comprehensive, and thorough evaluation involving journalism support groups. This evaluation must robustly demonstrate adherence to the core values of journalistic ethics. These systems must respect privacy, intellectual property and data protection laws. A clear accountability framework is established for any failure to meet these requirements. Systems that operate predictably and can be simply explained are preferred.”

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