Seemingly AI-Written Book on Maui Wildfire Becomes Amazon Bestseller, Gets Taken Down

Fake News

Earlier this August, a catastrophic wildfire broke out on the Hawaiian island of Maui, razing entire towns and leaving at least 116 hundred people dead.

And then, while over a thousand people still remained missing, a book that claimed to document the Maui wildfires was published on Amazon just days after the disaster, briefly becoming a bestseller in its category, according to The Register.

Titled "Fire and Fury: The Story of the 2023 Maui and its Implications for Climate Change," the 87-page volume has now been removed from Amazon's marketplace, Gizmodo reports — and everything points to it being a cold-blooded, AI-written cash grab, which is now being used to fuel conspiracy theories. More on that in a minute.

"Clearly this author, or rather parasite, is writing for profit," stated one Amazon review of the unanimously one-star rated book.

Book Hook

The impossible timeliness of its publication is already one strike against "Fire and Fury"'s credibility. Even though its publication date is visibly listed as August 10, its description claims to chronicle "the events of August 8 -11."

Dr. Miles Stones, its stated author, does not appear to exist. His biography states only that "I'd rather not say."

Examining the book's prose does it no favors, either. Its description on Amazon starts with the words "The book" in five out of the seven sentences in the same paragraph, notes an analysis by Snopes.

Snopes also found that the writing inside the book is "clunky" like an AI's. The formatting, too, is all over the place, filled with inexplicable blank pages and stock images.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the book has already been taken down. Amazon did the same earlier this month, when author Jane Friedman discovered fraudulent, AI-generated books with her name on them being sold on its marketplace. After widespread outcry, Amazon quietly removed them.

Misinformation Machine

Overall, it seems like a fairly open-and-shut case. Some dirtbag used a large language model like ChatGPT to vomit out a whole book, then shoddily packaged it for Amazon to make a quick buck on a horrific tragedy.

Yet the book's speedy publication has fueled the imaginations of some climate-denying conspiracy theorists, who sincerely cite it as evidence that the Maui wildfires were a pre-planned disaster.

"One has to ask one's self, how does a book like this emerge so quickly?" asked another Amazon reviewer, as quoted by Gizmodo.

"Fire and Fury" is thus a perfect example of AI's effortless propensity for spreading misinformation: the book itself is a totally made up account of a current event, it was generated within just days of said tragedy, and it inadvertently became evidence for conspiracy theories.

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