Tech | May 31, 2020 6:00 am

Microsoft Replaces Journalists With Robots

Human jobs lost to make way for software

Do robots need keyboards? We're about to find out.
John Snyder/Creative Commons

The question of how AI technology might affect the future of journalism is a hotly-debated one. In 2016, the Associated Press began using AI to write capsule recaps of Minor League Baseball games. At the time, it was unclear if this would be a brief experiment or the harbinger of something far more widespread.

Now, Microsoft has announced its own foray into AI — and it’s coming at the cost of a number of human jobs. At The Guardian, Jim Waterson reports that the technology company has announced layoffs in a case where employees are being replaced by software. The changes will affect two of Microsoft’s products, Waterson reports:

Staff who maintain the news homepages on Microsoft’s MSN website and its Edge browser – used by millions of Britons every day – have been told that they will be no longer be required because robots can now do their jobs.

The change will result in 27 people being out of work. Their jobs largely involved curating news stories and making sure that they adhered to certain guidelines. As Waterson phrases it:

Manual curation of news stories also ensured that headlines were clear and appropriate for the format, while encouraging a spread of political opinions and avoiding untrustworthy stories, while highlighting interesting articles from smaller outlets.

Whether or not software can be trained to do this remains to be seen. The last few years have included a number of cases where software failed to catch something a human eye would have; what the future holds for this Microsoft initiative is unclear.

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