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Most downloaded US news app has Chinese roots and ‘writes fiction’ using AI

Reuters: “Last Christmas Eve, NewsBreak a free app with roots in China that is the most downloaded news app in the United States, published an alarming piece about a small town shooting. It was headlined “Christmas Day Tragedy Strikes Bridgeton, New Jersey Amid Rising Gun Violence in Small Towns.” The problem was, no such shooting took place. The Bridgeton, New Jersey police department posted a statement on Facebook on December 27 dismissing the article – produced using AI technology – as “entirely false”. “Nothing even similar to this story occurred on or around Christmas, or even in recent memory for the area they described,” the post said. “It seems this ‘news’ outlet’s AI writes fiction they have no problem publishing to readers.” NewsBreak, which is headquartered in Mountain View, California and has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, told Reuters it removed the article on December 28, four days after publication. The company said “the inaccurate information originated from the content source,” and provided a link to the website, adding: “When NewsBreak identifies any inaccurate content or any violation of our community standards, we take prompt action to remove that content.” The operators of the website,, did not respond to a request from Reuters for comment. The police declined to provide further comment. As local news outlets across America have shuttered in recent years, NewsBreak has filled the void. Billing itself as “the go-to source for all things local,” Newsbreak says it has over 50 million monthly users. It publishes licensed content from major media outlets, including Reuters, Fox, AP and CNN as well as some information obtained by scraping the internet for local news or press releases which it rewrites with the help of AI. It is only available in the U.S. But in at least 40 instances since 2021, the app’s use of AI tools affected the communities it strives to serve, with Newsbreak publishing erroneous stories; creating 10 stories from local news sites under fictitious bylines; and lifting content from its competitors, according to a Reuters review of previously unreported court documents related to copyright infringement, cease-and-desist emails and a 2022 company memo registering concerns about “AI-generated stories.”

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