Microsoft Replaced Its News Editors With AI. It's Brought One Disaster After Another — and the Wrath of a Major Publication. The company is grappling with AI's editorial fallout.
- It's unclear how many of Microsoft's 800 former editors remain on staff today.
- The MSN homepage has published inaccurate stories and an insensitive poll.
Recently, Microsoft's reliance on technology over human editors apparently led to a disastrous series of publications on the company's homepage, also known as MSN.com and Microsoft Start, according to people familiar with the site, CNN reported.
In 2018, the site, which is automatically installed as the default start page on devices operating on Microsoft software, boasted 800 editors who helped curate news stories for millions of global readers, per the outlet. It's unclear exactly how many editors — if any — remain on staff today, but in 2020, the company laid off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations, The Verge reported.
MSN's editorial AI published stories from low-quality outlets that are patently untrue, falsely claiming that President Joe Biden fell asleep during a moment of silence for victims of the Maui wildfire and that San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston resigned after criticism from Elon Musk, per CNN.
But the lack of oversight at MSN.com is damaging Microsoft's relationship with established publications, too. Last week, Britain's The Guardian newspaper published an article about 21-year-old Lilie James, who was found dead with serious head injuries at a school in Sydney, Australia. Amid a national conversation about violence against women unfolding in Australia, MSN republished The Guardian story and attached a poll for readers: "What do you think is the reason behind the woman's death?" "Murder," "accident" or "suicide" were given as options.
"Not only is this sort of application potentially distressing for the family of the individual who is the subject of the story, it is also deeply damaging to the Guardian's hard-won reputation for trusted, sensitive journalism, and to the reputation of the individual journalists who wrote the original story," Anna Bateson, the chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, wrote in a letter Tuesday to Microsoft President Brad Smith.
A Microsoft spokesperson told CNN that the company was disabling all polls on news articles and "investigating the cause of the inappropriate content" to prevent a similar error in the future.