In a move that is bound to send shockwaves through journalist ranks globally, Microsoft has decided to replace dozens of journalists with artificial intelligence software.
The UK Guardian reports that staff who maintain the news homepages on Microsoft’s MSN website and its Edge browser have been told that they will be no longer be required because robots can now do their jobs.
That means users of the homepages of the MSN website and Edge browser will now see news stories generated by AI.
About 27 individuals employed by PA Media – formerly the Press Association – were told last week they would lose their jobs in a month’s time after Microsoft decided to stop employing humans to select, edit and curate news articles on its homepages.
According to the Guardian, employees were told Microsoft’s decision to end the contract with PA Media was taken at short notice as part of a global shift away from humans in favour of automated updates for news.
Other teams may be affected
It is understood the team working on the Microsoft site did not report original stories but still exercised editorial control, selecting stories produced by other news organisations. They edited content and headlines where appropriate to fit the format.
Other teams around the world are expected to be affected by Microsoft’s decision to automate the curation of its news sites, the Guardian reports.
A Microsoft spokesperson is quoted: “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.”
Many tech companies are experimenting with uses for Artificial Intelligence in journalism, though efforts to automate the writing of articles have not been adopted widely.