It was just a few weeks ago when tech giant Microsoft announced that it was laying off dozens of journalists and editorial staff who worked for MSN and Microsoft News, and would instead rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to curate news and content. This change was all encompassing, across MSN.com, Microsoft News app and the newsfeed that you see in the Microsoft Edge web browser.
But barely a few days later, the artificially intelligence robots which many would have genuinely believed were better than humans at journalism, have run into trouble. It turns out, the intelligent robots have confused between two mixed-race members of the British pop group Little Mix.
The robot editors over at MSN.com had selected an article about Little Mix singer Jade Thirlwall’s experience with racism, but instead used a picture of Thirlwall’s bandmate Leigh-Anne Pinnock to go with it. The story appeared on the homepage of MSN.com as well.
This was pointed out by Jade Thirlwall in an Instagram story. She wrote, “@MSN If you’re going to copy and paste articles from other accurate media outlets, you might want to make sure you’re using an image of the correct mixed-race member of the group. This shit happens to @leighannepinnock and I ALL THE TIME that it’s become a running joke … It offends me that you couldn’t differentiate the two women of colour out of four members of a group … DO BETTER!”
The article as well as the image to go with that article was selected by Microsoft’s artificially intelligent software, and probably had no human interaction—also because Microsoft fired all the human journalists and editorial staff anyway. It is perhaps quite interesting that the software which Microsoft is using does seem to have a racial bias. Or was it a mistake? But then, we are told humans make mistakes, robots don’t. If nothing else, this is a setback to the reputation of the AI systems in use. “As soon as we became aware of this issue, we immediately took action to resolve it and have replaced the incorrect image,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Guardian.
These artificially intelligent robots are not capable of creating or posting any original content, and their primary job is to select articles they see on other websites and news outlets and repost them with due linkbacks on MSN.com, Microsoft News and the news feed in Edge.