Journalists in China, who historically have had a difficult time doing their jobs because of heavy censorship and control by the Government, have now had another worry added to their plates – fears their jobs could be taken over by robots.
The fears arose as Tencent, the Chinese social media and gaming giant, announced a robot had written the company’s latest business story in a “flawless 916 word article” released via Tencent’s instant messaging service portal QQ.com.
Chinese reporter Li Wei, who is based in Shenzhen, said “The piece is very readable. I can’t even tell it wasn’t written by a person,”
The business report, written in Chinese, was produced by robot journalist Dreamwriter, and reportedly only took one minute to produce. Dreamwriter specializes in covering financial news with ease.
Although ‘robots’ in the form of computer software have been producing basic newspaper articles and reports in the U.S since 2012, the news of a robot reporter in China, which has very limited media freedom, has created waves of anxiety.
Chinese media experts reported that news of Dreamwriter’s achievement sent “local reporters scurrying to the bathroom as they envisaged the end of their careers.”
The reporters fear that because robots can be adapted to understand and produce Chinese-language reports, and because robot reporters have now been adopted by one of China’s most influential internet companies, it could signal the beginning of a new era in terms of what or who produces news.
“I’ve heard about robot reporters for a long time, but thought they only operated in the United States and Europe,” reporter Wei said. “I’m not ready to compete with them yet.”
A Chinese reporter from Guangzhou said “You know, many reporters working for government-run newspapers across the country usually copy and paste the statements and news press. They are not allowed to express doubt or really investigate reports against the authorities. So robot reporters could easily replace a lot of Chinese reporters like this nationwide.”