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Microsoft fires journalists to replace them with AI robots

Microsoft fires journalists to replace them with AI robotsMicrosoft CEO Satya Nadella (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)
Highlights

Microsoft to stop employing humans to select, edit and curate news articles on its homepages.

Microsoft fired many journalists after it decided to replace them with artificial intelligence robots.

Staff who maintain the Microsoft's MSN website news homepages on and its Edge browser have been told that they will be no longer needed as robots can do their jobs.

Around 27 people employed by PA Media – earlier the Press Association – were told on Thursday that in a month they would lose their jobs after Microsoft decided to stop hiring humans to select, edit and curate news articles on its homepages.

One team member said: "I spend all my time reading about how automation and AI are going to take all our jobs, and here I am – AI has taken my job."

He further added that the decision to replace humans with software was risky, as the existing staff were keen to stick to "very strict editorial guidelines" which ensured users not to be presented with violent or unsuitable content when opening their browser, of particular importance for younger users.

The Microsoft team working on-site did not report original stories, but still implemented editorial control, selecting stories produced by other news organizations, including The Guardian, and editing content and headlines when appropriate for the format. The articles were then presented on the Microsoft website, and the company shared the advertising revenue with the original publishers.

Manual presentation of the news also ensured that the headlines were clear and format-appropriate while encouraging the dissemination of political views and avoiding unreliable stories, while also highlighting interesting articles from small-media house.

Some of the journalists' are now facing layoff had long experience in the industry, while for others they offered a foot in the door and a job in a sector that has seen wave after wave of cuts. Now they face a challenge of getting a job somewhere else when the whole industry is planning to cut costs. Other teams around across the globe are expected to be affected by Microsoft's decision to automate the curation of its news sites.

Like other news organizations, PA Media faces difficult financial challenges and had to suspend some staff members and ask others to accept pay cuts. The tech company had expanded out of its traditional newsagency business, recently buying the Alamy stock image business just before the pandemic devastated the media industry.

A company spokesperson 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."

"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, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic," said a Microsoft spokesperson.

Many tech companies are experimenting with Artificial Intelligence uses in journalism. As Google funding investment in projects to understand its uses, although automate the writing of articles have not been adopted extensively.

Source: The Guardian

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