How a Small Iowa Newspaper’s Website Became an AI-Generated Clickbait Factory

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I ran across this interesting story in Wired today and wanted to give you a recap.

In a curious tale of digital deception, the Clayton County Register, a small newspaper in northeastern Iowa, unwittingly transformed into an AI-generated clickbait factory. The saga began when Tony Eastin, a former US Air Force officer and Meta investigator, stumbled upon the newspaper’s website. What he found was perplexing: finance-themed posts devoid of useful information, completely unrelated to northeastern Iowa. Intrigued, Eastin teamed up with Sandeep Abraham, another seasoned investigator, to unravel the mystery.

Their investigation revealed a network of websites teeming with AI-generated clickbait. These sites exploit the reputations of established media outlets and brands, luring unsuspecting audiences and advertisers. The scuzzy site that once bore the Clayton County Register’s name had severed ties with the actual newspaper, domain squatting on its URL. While the network’s current motives appear profit-driven, the duo fears that more malicious actors could exploit similar tactics to disseminate misinformation and propaganda.

The real Clayton County Register, founded in 1926, covered the small town of Elkader, Iowa, and the wider Clayton County. Its former web address now hosts content far removed from its journalistic roots. Eastin and Abraham’s findings underscore the threat posed by generative AI, urging vigilance against deceptive online practices. Their report aims to raise awareness among the public and lawmakers, highlighting the urgent need to address this emerging issue.

You can read the full story on wired, but a subscription might be required. I am not affiliated with Wired nor do I receive any compensation for this link.

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