Press freedom means controlling the language of AI
Mike Ananny and Jake Karr

Generative AI poses the biggest threat to press freedom in decades, and journalists should act quickly to organize themselves and radically reshape its power to produce news. Long buffeted by economic and technological challenges beyond its control, today’s press depends on distributed, technological infrastructures owned and operated by a select few powerful corporations. With Generative AI, news organizations may soon outsource to tech companies not only the power and responsibility to disseminate and curate news, but to create it in the first place. This power goes to the core of journalism’s public service, namely its capacity and obligation to use language to create and debate the ground truths that anchor shared social realities. Journalism that uses the large language models and statistical patterns of Big Tech’s Generative AI runs the risk of being not just biased or boring. Such journalism is potentially anathema to a free press because it surrenders the autonomy—not to mention aesthetic joy—that comes from knowing why and how to use language. Journalists need to get good, fast, at looking under the hood of Generative AI systems and developing the power to shape them.