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Most downloaded news app in America with ties to China highlights dangers of AI

NewsBreak is one of the most downloaded news apps in the U.S., with over 50 million monthly users. However, Reuters reports that the company spreads misinformation through content generated by artificial intelligence (AI). The report also notes that NewsBreak has roots in China, its technology is maintained in Beijing, and it is funded by Chinese companies that allegedly work for the Chinese military.

NewsBreak App (Google Play) (Kurt “Cyberguy” Knutson)

Why NewsBreak is misusing AI

of Reuters report We’ve covered many instances where NewsBreak used AI to generate news stories that didn’t actually happen, such as when they ran a shocking story about a mass shooting in a small town last Christmas Eve, with the headline “Tragedy strikes in Bridgeton, NJ on Christmas Day amid rising gun violence in small towns.”

However, no such incident occurred. On December 27, the Bridgeton Police Department in New Jersey posted a statement on Facebook denying the article was created using AI technology, calling it “completely false.”

NewsBreak does not write all of its articles in-house – it is a publishing company that publishes licensed content from media outlets such as Reuters, Fox, CNN and AP – and some articles are also taken from information available on the Internet or paraphrased press releases.

America's most downloaded news app with China ties highlights AI dangers

Man reading the news on a tablet (Kurt “Cyberguy” Knutson)

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How NewsBreak’s automated content impacts communities

A Reuters investigation found at least 40 cases since 2021 where the use of News Break’s AI tools has affected local areas. The app published false articles, created 10 articles from local news sites with fictitious bylines, and plagiarized content from competitors. Two local community programs that help disadvantaged people were affected by false articles created by News Break’s AI.

In January, February and March of this year, Food to Power, a Colorado-based food bank, was forced to turn away people after News Break misrepresented food distribution times. The charity emailed a complaint to the company’s general customer support address on January 30 but did not receive a response. Harvest 912, a charity in Erie, Pennsylvania, reported similar incidents.

Noam Pearlstein, a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times who worked as a consultant for Newsbreak, told Reuters that the company had also tried to create fake accounts to access content that publishers charged for.

America's most downloaded news app with China ties highlights AI dangers

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NewsBreak’s China connection

Although NewsBreak markets itself as a US-based, US-funded startup, its roots are in China. The company was founded in 2015 by Jeff Chen, who currently serves as NewsBreak’s CEO. Chen is also the founder of Chinese news aggregation app Yidian. In fact, the two companies registered a US patent in 2015 for an “interest engine” algorithm that recommends news content based on a user’s interests and location.

Until 2019, News Break was a subsidiary of Yidian, and the Chinese news aggregation company continued to call News Break its U.S. version until 2021, he said. The Wire ChinaMoreover, one of News Break’s main backers is Beijing-based IDG Capital, which is on the list of dozens of Chinese companies that the Department of Defense says work with the Chinese military. It is important to note that there is no evidence that News Break censors or produces news favorable to the Chinese government.

We reached out to NewsBreak for comment on this story but did not receive a response by deadline.

America's most downloaded news app with China ties highlights AI dangers

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4 ways to protect yourself from misinformation

The increasing use of AI makes the internet harder to navigate than ever. Follow these steps to protect yourself from misinformation:

1) Check the source: Verify the credibility of the source. Look for news from reputable organizations with a track record of accuracy and accountability. Verify information with multiple reliable sources before believing or sharing it.

2) Check the author. Research the author of the content. Make sure the author is trustworthy and has the necessary expertise and background. Be wary of articles that don’t have an author byline.

3) Use fact-checking tools: To verify questionable claims, use fact-checking websites and tools such as Snopes, FactCheck.org, and the International Fact-Checking Network. These resources can help you determine the accuracy of information.

4) Be skeptical of social media: Take information on social media with a pinch of salt. Platforms like Facebook, X and Instagram can be breeding grounds for misinformation. Verify information from trusted sources before sharing or believing it. Be especially cautious of viral content and consider the potential biases of those who share it.

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Important points about the cart

The internet has always been a breeding ground for misinformation, but it has reached its peak now that news media publications have started using AI to generate content. The NewsBreak incident is one of many that have come to light in recent years and is just a taste of what we are about to witness. It is important to get your news from trusted sources. You can always trust me with tech-related news, but for other content, be sure to check the source.

As we move forward in the digital age with AI, what responsibility do platforms like NewsBreak have to combat the spread of misinformation? Cyberguy.com/Contact Us.

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