tech

Robots took my job: Microsoft sacks journalists, replaces them with AI software

Stories in the MSN website and the Edge browser homepage will now be AI-generated

Twenty seven journalists were told on Thursday that they would be losing their jobs in a month’s time after Microsoft took the decision to stop using humans to select, curate and edit news articles on the MSN and Edge homepages.
Twenty seven journalists were told on Thursday that they would be losing their jobs in a month’s time after Microsoft took the decision to stop using humans to select, curate and edit news articles on the MSN and Edge homepages. (Pixabay)

Microsoft has sacked dozens of journalists and has replaced them with artificial intelligence software. The journos who maintain the news homepages on Microsoft’s MSN website and the homepage on the Edge browser have been told that they are no longer needed since robots can do their jobs now.

Twenty seven journalists employed by PA Media, earlier known as the Press Association, were told on Thursday that they would be losing their jobs in a month’s time after Microsoft took the decision to stop using humans to select, curate and edit news articles on the MSN and Edge homepages.

There 27 employees were told that 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”.

“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,” one staff member said.

This staff member also added that the decision to let software replace humans was a risky move as the journalists were careful about sticking to strict editorial guidelines that made sure that users coming to these homepages would not get to see violent or inappropriate content, particularly youngsters.

The editorial team working on the Microsoft sites did not report original news. They instead selected stories filed by other news organisations and content and headline were changed to fit the in-house format. These articles would then be hosted on the sites and Microsoft would share ad revenues with the original publishers.

The fact that news was being manually curated, so far, ensured that headlines were clear and accurate, “encouraging the spread of political opinions and avoiding untrustworthy stories, while highlighting interesting articles from smaller outlets”.

For these journalists who have been fired, it is going to be a tough time right now since the industry, across the globe, has been dealing with extensive job cuts. PA Media itself has been facing difficulties. The company had to furlough some staff and ask others to take pay cuts.

“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,” a spokesperson for the company.

“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,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.