It’s bad news for people, but great news for AI over at Microsoft. The tech titan announced over the weekend that they are getting rid of dozens of editors, journalists, and other related staff at its various news divisions, including MSN.
Although COVID-19-related layoffs are common in the news business, Microsoft was pretty clear that their shift to AI was unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic. Rather, the move is part of Microsoft’s overall automation plan. The Redmond, Washington company will be replacing its former staff with news-scanning AI algorithms.
A Microsoft company spokesman revealed, “Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis.” He went on to note, “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.”
The layoffs include at least 77 journalist and editors, including 50 from the USA and another 27 from the United Kingdom. The laid off workers were responsible for curating news stories that appeared on the homepages of various Microsoft services, including MSN, Microsoft News, and the Edge browser. An artificial intelligence algorithm will now be tasked with scanning the web for interesting new articles without requiring the input of humans.
The effectiveness of Microsoft’s AI is unclear. There have been documented cases where AI software neglected to sport errors that humans could easily catch.
Recently, Microsoft has encouraged its editors and reporters to make use of artificial intelligence for certain tasks such as locating and distilling content, as well as finding images to accompany said content.
Microsoft first entered the news business in 1995, which is when MSN made its debut. The company also cofounded the cable news network MSNBC in 1996, although Microsoft divested its stake in the channel in 2005.