Last month, Microsoft laid-off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations. The layoffs are part of a bigger push by Microsoft to rely on artificial intelligence to pick news and content that’s presented on MSN.com, inside Microsoft’s Edge browser, and in the company’s various Microsoft News apps. Many of the affected workers are part of Microsoft’s SANE (search, ads, News, Edge) division, and are contracted as human editors to help pick stories.
However, according to recent developments, Microsoft’s AI editors are already showing signs of inaccuracy. The AI reportedly used a photo of Leigh-Anne Pinnock on a story about her fellow bandmate Jade Thirlwall’s experiences with racism. Thirlwall and Pinnock are the two women of color in the four-member band Little Mix.
Thirlwall criticized the company through her Twitter, tagging MSN, Microsoft’s news publishing website on her post. “@MSN If you’re going to copy and paste articles from other accurate media outlets, you might want to make sure you’re using an image of the correct mixed-race member of the group," she wrote.
A spokesperson shared in media, “Whilst removing bias and improving accuracy remains an area of focus for AI research, this mistake was not a result of these issues. In testing a new feature to select an alternate image, rather than defaulting to the first photo, a different image on the page of the original article was paired with the headline of the piece. This made it erroneously appear as though the headline was a caption for the picture.”
Microsoft has been in the news business for more than 25 years, after launching MSN all the way back in 1995. At the launch of Microsoft News nearly two years ago, Microsoft revealed it had “more than 800 editors working from 50 locations around the world.”
Microsoft has gradually been moving towards AI for its Microsoft News work in recent months and has been encouraging publishers and journalists to make use of AI, too. Microsoft has been using AI to scan for content and then process and filter it and even suggest photos for human editors to pair it with. Microsoft had been using human editors to curate top stories from a variety of sources to display on Microsoft News, MSN, and Microsoft Edge.