AI Scammers Resurrect Dead Websites to Puppet Authors' Likenesses

A screenshot of The Unofficial Apple Weblog's home page with various news featured images behind a ChatGPT logo
Credit: OpenAI / TUAW

A screenshot of The Unofficial Apple Weblog's home page with various news featured images behind a ChatGPT logo
Credit: OpenAI / TUAW

We all had our favorite websites growing up—places we’d visit daily to catch up on news, speak to friends (R.I.P. MySpace), or just as part of our routine. However, as the internet has become more cluttered and creating websites easier than ever, many sites have disappeared over the years.

Take The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) as an example. TUAW was a go-to source for many Apple enthusiasts to get the latest scoop on the company’s products and updates. It shut down back in 2015, almost a decade ago. However, as the Apple Vision Pro arrives in new regions and the world anticipates the iPhone 16 and iOS 18 AI features, TUAW has somehow resurfaced.

Unfortunately, for original TUAW readers, the revival isn’t what it seems. At first glance, it might appear that the iconic website has returned with a facelift, but the reality is far worse. As reported by The Verge, TUAW isn’t reviving its old glory but is instead filled with AI-generated trash.

Christina Warren, an original author for TUAW who has since moved on to new roles in the tech industry, posted about the zombified website on Threads, which surprisingly, isn't dead yet. Despite her name appearing on some new articles, Warren suggests that the reimagined TUAW is simply using her name and previous articles to bolster the website’s authority again.

A screenshot of a TUAW AI-generated news article about Tim Cook's discussions of Apple Vision Pro launching in Australia
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Credit: StealthOptional

“So someone bought the TUAW domain, populated it with AI-generated slop, and then reused my name from a job I had when I was 21 years old to try to pull some SEO scam that won’t even work in 2024 because Google changed its algo,” Warren wrote on Threads. Following her post, the new owners of TUAW removed her last name. Currently, there’s no sign of Christina in the Authors list on TUAW, indicating she’s been removed since her comments on Threads.

The original TUAW authors have had their bios and images—both AI-generated and stolen—altered. Many old articles have been modified by AI, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the new owners used ChatGPT 4o or similar tools from the best AI chatbots list to write new articles.

We hope that Google will take action against this site sooner rather than later. However, Google's recent deals with Reddit for AI data and the poor quality of its AI-generated overviews suggest otherwise. Despite Google using de-ranked websites for its AI snippets, we hope that AI-generated sites like the new TUAW will be cut down before they can rank highly.

This problem is troubling in two ways. First, people have expressed they don’t trust AI journalists to provide unbiased news. Considering that an AI news website recently falsely accused an innocent man of sexual abuse, this distrust is understandable. Second, the revival tarnishes the legacy of the original TUAW, and profiting off old authors’ likenesses and nostalgia won’t sit well with anyone.

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