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Navalny Film ‘Debunk’ Partly Written Using AI, Investigators Claim

A “debunk” of the Oscar-winning documentary “Navalny”, published by US-based media outlet The Grayzone, was partially written by AI text generator, and references sources that don’t exist, investigators have claimed.

On Sunday night, the film about the poisoning that nearly killed Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, and his imprisonment upon his return to Moscow in 2021, was awarded best feature documentary at the Academy Awards ceremony in Hollywood.

The documentary centers on an investigation by Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based investigative journalism group founded in 2014. It looks into who poisoned Navalny with the nerve agent Novichok in August 2020. Navalny has accused the Kremlin of ordering the poisoning attempt.

On March 13, The Grayzone published a now-amended article by journalist Lucy Komisar titled “Oscar-winning ‘Navalny’ documentary is packed with misinformation.” The news outlet was founded by American journalist Max Blumenthal, and has been accused of publishing materials consistent with Russian propaganda.

Komisar in her article suggested that at the time of the poisoning, Navalny had already been unwell, and had a history of medical conditions.

Bellingcat’s founder, Eliot Higgins, published a lengthy Twitter thread on Tuesday, saying that there are “some big issues with the sourcing.” “Komisar’s research has been aided by AI, and not the smart kind,” he said.

Higgins claimed Komisar used the AI ​​assisted writing tool Writesonic while writing up the article.

“Several of the links in the article are PDFs [that] contain answers apparently set by the author of the article to the AI ​​assisted writing tool Write Sonic, and in some cases are used as sources for claims in the article,” he wrote, providing an example that the article makes claims about Navalny’s medical history based on a response from Writesonic to questions set to it.

The article has fictional “sources,” Higgins went on.

“The author has asked the AI ​​to provide links to the articles presented, but there’s a bit of an issue with these links. You can probably tell right away what the issue is, with a 2014 Guardians URL mentioning Navalny and Yulia Skripal in this example.”

Former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were hospitalized in 2018 after being targeted in a nerve agent attack in the British city of Salisbury.

The URL presented in the article “doesn’t actually exist,” said Higgins. “I’ve also checked if there might be the stories cited on different URLs, Googling variations of the URL, doing everything I can to find them, but they just don’t exist, in any of the cases where URLs have been provided. “

Higgins explained that in the case of the claims about Navalny’s health conditions, there were no articles that supported the claim.

“The AI ​​just appears to have pieced together the response from a bunch of different sources, many of which are highly dubious,” said Higgins.

He added: “So it appears @LucyKomisar has relied on an AI writing tool to do her research, which has generated text based on AI generated links that link to nowhere.”

Bellingcat’s Aric Toler said on Tuesday that the news outlet “published an article written in part by an AI tool which generated fake links/references/PDFs cited in the article.”

“An example is a Guardian ‘article’ on the Navalny poisoning from 2014. The editors apparently never caught that the piece cited AI-imagined sources,” Toler tweeted.

The Grayzone has since amended the article.

“Editor’s note: The Grayzone has amended this article, removing two claims that were not properly sourced in the article originally published by The Komisar Scoop, and replacing one with an article sourced to the Western-backed Russian opposition outlet, Meduza,” the outlet said in a statement.

Newsweek has reached out for comment to Lucy Komisar by email and to the Grayzone via its website.

Do you have a tip on a world news story that Newsweek should be covered? Do you have a question about the Russia-Ukraine war? Let us know via

A “debunk” of the Oscar-winning documentary “Navalny”, published by US-based media outlet The Grayzone, was partially written by AI text generator, and references sources that don’t exist, investigators have claimed.

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