From July the MSN homepage will no longer present the news produced by the PA Media company. Dozens of journalists have lost their jobs. Microsoft fires and replaces them with artificial intelligence software.
The staff who manage the news home pages on Microsoft's MSN website have been told they won't need it anymore. "The bot can do the same job." Microsoft has decided to stop employing humans to select, edit, and curate the news articles on its home pages.
The 27 employees were told the decision was made as part of a global shift plan to automatic news updates. No connection with the coronavirus pandemic, as someone had speculated.
A staff member who lost his job states, “I spend all my time reading about how automation and artificial intelligence are about to take all of our jobs, and here I am. AI has really taken my place away ”. The company will now have to make further cuts to compensate for the damages of the loss of this partnership.
Man against machine
The team did not produce original news but took care of exercising editorial control, selecting the stories produced by other sources and modifying the contents and titles to adapt them to the format. The articles were then hosted on the Microsoft site, sharing advertising revenue with the original publishers.
The manual care of the news ensured that the headlines were clear and appropriate, encouraging the exchange of views, avoiding fake news and ensuring visibility even for small newspapers.
Some of the sacked journalists had long experience in the industry, and will now have to look for work elsewhere in a period of sharp contraction in the entire industry.
A Microsoft spokesperson said: "Like all companies, we run our own business: this can involve more investment in some industries and, from time to time, re-implementation in others."
Not only does Microsoft fire
Many tech companies are experimenting with uses for AI in journalism, with the likes of Reuters they even experience whole news composed and also announced with deepfake technology.
The risk (but it seems to me a question of "when" rather than "if") is that other companies in the world will take a cue.