NewsBreak’s AI error sparks controversy

The misinformation has affected local community programs, and concerns have been raised about the app’s reliance on Chinese-based engineers and its connection to the Chinese news aggregation company, Yidian.


Last Christmas Eve, NewsBreak, a popular news app, published a false report about a shooting in Bridgeton, New Jersey. The Bridgeton police quickly debunked the story, which had been generated by AI, stating that no such event had occurred. NewsBreak, which operates out of Mountain View, California, and has offices in Beijing and Shanghai, removed the erroneous article four days later, attributing the mistake to its content source.

NewsBreak, known for filling the void left by shuttered local news outlets, uses AI to rewrite news from various sources. However, this method has led to multiple errors, including incorrect information about local charities and fictitious bylines. In response to growing criticism, NewsBreak added a disclaimer about potential inaccuracies to its homepage. With over 50 million monthly users, the app primarily targets a demographic of suburban or rural women over 45 without college degrees.

The company has faced legal challenges due to its AI-generated content. Patch Media settled a $1.75 million lawsuit with NewsBreak over copyright infringement, and Emmerich Newspapers reached a settlement in a similar case. Concerns about the company’s ties to China have also been raised, as half of its employees are based there, prompting worries about data privacy and security.

Despite these issues, NewsBreak maintains that it complies with US data laws and operates on US-based servers. The company’s CEO, Jeff Zheng, emphasises its identity as a US-based business, crucial for its long-term credibility and success.