Microsoft turns to robots to replace journalists

Andrew Cummings
May 31, 2020

"Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis".

That's according to a report from Business Insider detailing job reductions at Microsoft News, the company's news content arm that operates and other properties.

Microsoft's news organisations already relied on algorithms for finding the most popular trending stories from among the company's many publishing partners (MSN canned all original content years ago), but still relied on old-fashion, flesh-and-blood writers to help frame this content by tweaking wording, headlines, and photos.

Around 27 staff are believed to be employed on the project in the UK.

Around 50 contract news producers will lose their jobs at the end of June, the Seattle Times reports, but a team of full-time journalists will remain.

The individual added that the decision to replace humans with software was risky, as the existing staff were careful to stick to "very strict editorial guidelines" which ensured that users were not presented with violent or inappropriate content when opening their browser, of particular important for younger users.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has always advocated for AI to be used alongside instead of in place of employees, but it seems when the opportunity arose Microsoft was just too happy to take advantage of an all-AI solution.

One of those journalists affected told The Guardian: 'I spend all my time reading about how automation and AI is going to take all our jobs, and here I am - AI has taken my job'. The workers were responsible for choosing, editing and curating stories. They have been told their jobs will be gone within a month.

"We are proud of the work we have done with Microsoft and know we delivered a high-quality service", a spokesperson for the company. It stressed that the contractor job cuts were "not the result of the current pandemic".

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