After successfully winning reelection last November, Philadelphia's controversial sheriff has been forced to admit that several articles cited as positive press for her campaign were cooked up with AI.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, a spokesperson for Sheriff Rochelle Bilal's reelection effort confirmed that the dozens of articles found on the campaign's website had been generated using OpenAI's ChatGPT.
Since winning election in 2019 amid promises to "remove the dark cloud" caused by corruption in the sheriff's office, Bilal has become yet another contentious figure for Philly, being accused of everything from operating a "slush fund" to facing allegations of abuse and retaliation.
You wouldn't have known any of that by the looks of Bilal's campaign website until just a few days ago, however, because as the Inquirer found in its investigation, the page was populated with phony stories that supposedly showcased the sheriff's "record of accomplishment during her time in office."
As it turns out, the 31 Bilal-boosting headlines were made up by AI, and either nobody caught it ahead of time, or nobody cared to change it.
"After review," the unattributed statement from Bilal's campaign provided to the Inquirer reads, "it has been determined that an outside consultant for the reelection campaign utilized ChatGPT."
As the unsigned statement claims, ChatGPT "generated fake news articles to support the initiatives that were part of the AI prompt" using "talking points" provided to the unidentified consultant. The chatbot then, apparently, spat out a bunch of BS — a process known as "hallucination," when chatbots confidently present bogus information as fact.
Earlier in the week, the newspaper reported that the supposed supportive articles, which were attributed to local media including the Inquirer and Philadelphia broadcast affiliate stations, but couldn't be located when searching by their dates and headlines. A spokesperson for one such affiliate, NBC10, confirmed as much in their own statement.
"We have one video similar to the Sheriff’s Office’s headline about the Sheriff’s Office handing out free gun locks," NBC10 representative Diana Torralvo wrote to the newspaper in an email. "However, that story was done in 2016, before Rochelle Bilal was in office."
While the confirmations from both the campaign and NBC10 paint a partial portrait of what went on here, there are, of course, lots of outstanding questions raised by the terse, unattributed admission. Who was the consultant, one is forced to wonder, and why wasn't their work fact-checked? Were they advised to use ChatGPT, or did they do so to save time?
Given that the sheriff's office hasn't responded to media requests at all, including from Futurism, those mysteries are likely to linger.
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