A college kid’s fake, AI-generated blog fooled tens of thousands. This is how he made it.
“It was super easy actually,” he says, “which was the scary part.”
At the start of the week, Liam Porr had only heard of GPT-3. By the end, the college student had used the AI model to produce an entirely fake blog under a fake name.
It was meant as a fun experiment. But then one of his posts found its way to the number-one spot on Hacker News. Few people noticed that his blog was completely AI-generated. Some even hit “Subscribe.”
While many have speculated about how GPT-3, the most powerful language-generating AI tool to date, could affect content production, this is one of the only known cases to illustrate the potential. What stood out most about the experience, says Porr, who studies computer science at the University of California, Berkeley: “It was super easy, actually, which was the scary part.”
GPT-3 is OpenAI’s latest and largest language AI model, which the San Francisco–based research lab began drip-feeding out in mid-July. In February of last year, OpenAI made headlines with GPT-2, an earlier version of the algorithm, which it announced it would withhold for fear it would be abused. The decision immediately sparked a backlash, as researchers accused the lab of pulling a stunt. By November, the lab had reversed position and released the model, saying it had detected “no strong evidence of misuse so far.”
The lab took a different approach with GPT-3; it neither withheld it nor granted public access. Instead, it gave the algorithm to select researchers who applied for a private beta, with the goal of gathering their feedback and commercializing the technology by the end of the year.
Porr submitted an application. He filled out a form with a simple questionnaire about his intended use. But he also didn’t wait around. After reaching out to several members of the Berkeley AI community, he quickly found a PhD student who already had access. Once the graduate student agreed to collaborate, Porr wrote a small script for him to run. It gave GPT-3 the headline and introduction for a blog post and had it spit out several completed versions. Porr’s first post (the one that charted on Hacker News), and every post after, was a direct copy-and-paste from one of outputs.
“From the time that I thought of the idea and got in contact with the PhD student to me actually creating the blog and the first blog going viral—it took maybe a couple of hours,” he says.