Listen to this article CNET Employees Unionize Amid Concerns Over Job Security Due To Automated Technology
Around 100 workers at CNET, a popular tech news and product review site, have chosen to form a union due to a perceived lack of transparency from management regarding layoffs and the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) within the company. This decision comes in the wake of recent revelations by Futurism journalists that CNET had published articles generated by AI without proper disclosure, which contained numerous basic errors. It is important to note that the organizing efforts had already begun before the news of AI implementation.
Organizing Efforts and Union Representation
The workers, including writers, editors, and video producers, will join the CNET Media Workers Union under the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). WGAE, representing 7,000 workers in film, news, and online media industries, has successfully organized other online media sites, including VICE Union, which represents Motherboard staff.
Rationale for Unionization
In a letter addressed to CNET management, the workers explained their decision to organize, emphasizing the rapidly transforming digital media landscape and the need for industry-standard job protections, fair compensation, editorial independence, and a voice in decision-making processes. The workers express concerns about the threat to their jobs and reputations posed by automated technology. The union is seen as a means to adapt to new business strategies while establishing high journalistic standards and practices.
Addressing Concerns about Automated Technology
The rise of advanced AI models, such as ChatGPT-4, has raised significant concerns within the writing industries. The ongoing film and TV writers’ strike has highlighted AI as a crucial point of contention between workers and management. The union aims to include provisions in their contract to regulate the use of AI-generated material, ensuring the protection of writers’ jobs. While AI is not yet capable of fully replacing a team of writers, its implementation is often perceived as a cost-effective alternative.
Concerns about Layoffs and Restructuring
The CNET Media Workers Union also raises concerns about the aftermath of Red Venture’s acquisition of the company in 2020. Ongoing restructuring, cost-cutting measures, changing job roles, promotion freezes, and multiple rounds of layoffs have had a severe impact on reporting and team dynamics at CNET. The elimination of senior editorial positions, discontinuation of the Roadshow cars section, significant reduction in the video team, and termination of science and culture coverage have led to low morale, unease, and an exodus of talent.
Transparency and Accountability
In their letter, the workers express concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability from management regarding performance evaluations, sponsored content, and plans for artificial intelligence. The blurring of editorial and monetization strategies is also a subject of apprehension.
Voluntary Recognition and Management Response
The union has requested voluntary recognition from CNET and Red Ventures. As of now, CNET has not responded to the request for comment.
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