This section addresses these ethical issues:
- What do we mean by robot journalism?
- How can we be certain that automatically produced journalism is accurate?
- How transparent does a news organization need to be about automatically produced material?
Although automated processes have been used in newsrooms for decades, modern-day automated journalism usually involves the use of computer algorithms to transform raw data into news stories that look like stories a human might have written.
Typical uses of robot journalism include transforming financial data into stories about stock market movements or company earnings, or using raw statistics from a football game to create a story about the match. As technology develops, robot journalism is likely to move into increasingly challenging areas.
Fundamental ethical issues in robot journalism include making sure that the underlying data are correct and that you have the right to use them; that you disclose you’re using automated processes; and that you understand the automation well enough to be able to defend how a given story was “written.”
Some automated systems create video or photo displays to accompany text stories. If so, you need to make sure that the system is accessing only imagery that you have a legal right to use, and nothing that’s satirical, hateful or not in line with your standards of taste.
Beyond these fundamentals, you will need to conduct extensive testing before automatically produced stories are displayed to the public. Regular spot checking is necessary even after the system is determined to be working properly. The algorithm should also be trained to produce stories that are stylistically like the rest of your content.