Natasha Lyonne, Adam McKay, Robert Carlock and over 1,000 Writers Guild of America East members have signed a petition calling on digital media companies to “work collaboratively” with their journalists on artificial intelligence guardrails.
The group of signatories, which also includes Patricia Cornwell, Mary Harron, Tom Fontana and Soo Hugh, also asks in the statement that digital media companies “publicly commit to never replacing a human worker with an AI tool” and “engage in immediate, good faith negotiations on AI outside of scheduled contract bargaining AND a guarantee that AI protections will be on the table in future bargaining.” The petition went public on Monday.
The WGA East represents journalists at digital media outlets including Fast Company, FT Specialist, Hearst Magazines, HuffPost, Salon, Slate, The Intercept, Vice and Vox Media, among other titles. The union has been aggressively organizing in the space since 2015, resulting in about 40 percent of the union currently being composed of online media workers.
Signatories explain in Monday’s petition that AI could be a useful tool for journalists, but also that “this technology can introduce factual errors, perpetuate racist biases, compromise data privacy, and diminish our readers’ trust.” The WGA East members point to recent “embarrassing fumbles” including an error-filled, AI-produced story about Star Wars that was published on Gizmodo and corrections issued on CNET articles that had been produced using AI. (Both companies employ workers unionized with the WGA East.)
Said Sara David, WGA East’s vice president of online media, in a statement about the petition, “The implementation of generative AI in journalism is a direct threat to the jobs of hard-working writers.” She added, “We cannot allow artificial intelligence to cannibalize the hard work of our journalists.”
Read the full message below.
We, the members of the Writers Guild of America East, recognize that digital media companies are eager to deploy generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools throughout our industry. We recognize there are ways AI can support our work — but we also know that this technology can introduce factual errors, perpetuate racist biases, compromise data privacy, and diminish our readers’ trust. We’ve already seen publications make embarrassing fumbles by rushing out AI-generated content, resulting in widespread reputational harm and reader mistrust.
We, the workers who create the stories, art, videos and podcasts our audiences love, are uniquely positioned to help identify beneficial uses of generative AI in our industry and flag potential problems. In the spirit of working collaboratively to preserve the journalistic integrity of our work, we call on our employers to:
Work collaboratively with us, the workers, before implementing AI tools in our workplaces. Commit to discussing new and emerging technologies with workers to ensure they’re applied in ethical and equitable ways.
Publicly commit to never replacing a human worker with an AI tool, a promise that would help restore trust with both workers who feel threatened by the emergence of AI in their workplaces and readers who feel uneasy about AI-produced content.
Engage in immediate, good faith negotiations on AI outside of scheduled contract bargaining AND a guarantee that AI protections will be on the table in future bargaining.
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