Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled Peddling fake news gets even easier as Chinas state-run press rolls out terrifying AI anchorsem/em
Screenshot: YouTube

Earlier this year, a video was released depicting a number of local news teams—all owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Groupreading in unison from a script of right-wing talking points. It was deeply disconcerting, and remains so in light of our current administration sharing a doctored video to justify the barring of a reporter who asks questions they don’t like. Based on President Donald Trump’s violent reactions to reasonable questions—just this morning he called reporter April Ryan a “loser”—it appears he’d be happy if, instead of a free press, there were only robots parroting his own self-aggrandizing claims back at him. Well, he’s just going to love this news coming out of China.


The Verge reports that Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, is now using “AI anchors” to deliver the news. Using footage of human anchors as “a base layer,” the architects of the technology then animate the mouth and face to the news programmed to spew from their maws in an ultra-creepy synthesized voice. Seriously, just look at this.

Xinhua touts that these AI anchors, by virtue of being not real, can “work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency.” What they don’t mention is that AI anchors have no emotions or decency and, thus, will read whatever they’re told. This is helpful in China, where the press is routinely censored.


The Verge makes a good point, though, noting that there’s plenty of soulless people out there who will gladly read fake news to the masses (see: Sinclair Broadcast Group). As such, it’s not as if this technology, which will only get more refined over time, is to be feared necessarily. It’s hard not to be creeped out, though, as independence is an integral component of a free press. Can you imagine this thing delivering the news?

Another unfortunate byproduct of this technology? No more news bloopers, which we all know to be the best bloopers.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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