Microsoft Is Replacing Its Journalists With Artificial Intelligence

The biggest concern of the world toward Artificial Intelligence is that the technology one day will be equal to human intelligence or might surpass it, and it will eventually result in human replacement with AI, Microsoft has recently found doing this with there employees, replacing them with Artificial Intelligence.

The tech giant has made the decision that at the end of May 2020, it will sack dozens of journalists in favor of replacing them with artificial intelligence. Microsoft will not renew the contracts for dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations.

The news production contractors, journalists, and editors are fired that ran the MSN News website, it is the automatic homepage of the Microsoft Edge browser. The MSN News website doesn’t write news itself, but draws news from other sources and splits advertising revenue with the original publishers.

It used to be curated by humans, who would select stories adhering to their editorial guidelines and edit articles, photos, and headlines wherever necessary. 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.

Even if the employee did not report original stories but still exercised editorial control, selecting stories produced by other news organizations and editing content and headlines where appropriate to fit the format.

Manual curation of news stories also ensured that headlines were clear and appropriate for the format while encouraging a spread of political opinions and avoiding untrustworthy stories while highlighting interesting articles from smaller outlets. Microsoft is looking to make this work done from Artificial Intelligence.

Around 30 journalists were given a month’s notice following Microsoft’s decision to no longer employ people who would research, edit, and choose the various news articles for one of their pages.

This transaction of Microsoft from humans to Artificial Intelligence is a part of a bigger plan, by doing Microsoft is trying to increase its reliance over artificial intelligence to pick news and content that’s presented on, inside Microsoft’s Edge browser, and in the company’s various Microsoft News apps.

Microsoft said it was part of an evaluation of its business. It said in a statement: “Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, redeployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.”

A spokesperson for the company said: “We are in the process of winding down the Microsoft team working at PA, and we are doing everything we can to support the individuals concerned. We are proud of the work we have done with Microsoft and know we delivered a high-quality service.”

Some sacked journalists warned that artificial intelligence may not be fully familiar with strict editorial guidelines, and could end up letting through inappropriate stories. Twenty-seven of those losing their jobs are employed by the UK’s PA Media, the Guardian reports.

One journalist quoted in the paper said: “I spend all my time reading about how automation and AI are going to take all our jobs – now it’s taken mine.”

Full-time news producers employed by Microsoft will be retained by the company; they perform functions similar to those being let go. But all contracted news producer jobs have been eliminated.

Some employees, speaking on condition of anonymity, said MSN will use AI to replace the production work they’d been doing. That work includes using algorithms to identify trending news stories from dozens of publishing partners and to help optimize the content by rewriting headlines or adding better accompanying photographs or slide shows.

“It’s been semi-automated for a few months but now it’s full speed ahead,’’ one of the terminated contractors said. “It’s demoralizing to think machines can replace us but there you go.’’

MSN has undergone a number of changes since its launch as Microsoft Network in 1995. Once a web portal and default internet homepage for millions of personal computers, it offered original content and links to news, weather, and sports.

In 2013, it rolled back original news content and began cutting employees. By 2014, it launched a redesigned version that partnered with other news sites paying them to redistribute their content.

Today, the news service relies entirely on those partnerships with no original news content of its own.

Curating stories rather than actually generating them made it easier for MSN to increasingly rely on an automated editing system, though several of the terminated employees expressed skepticism it will work as well with fewer human beings to monitor the technology.

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.

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