Microsoft announced it won’t be renewing the contracts of roughly 50 news production contractors working at MSN. The firm said these positions will be replaced by artificial intelligence, reported The Seattle Times.
“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” a Microsoft spokesman said in a statement. “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 terminated employees were notified on Wednesday that their services would no longer be needed beyond June 30.
Full-time news producers will be retained by the company. However, all contracted news producers will be let go.
The Seattle Times spoke to some employees on the condition of anonymity who said that MSN will use artificial intelligence to replace the production work they had been doing, such as identifying trending news stories and optimizing content.
“It’s been semi-automated for a few months but now it’s full speed ahead,’’ one of the terminated contractors said. “It’s demoralizing to think machines can replace us but there you go.’’
One staff member who has been made redundant told The Guardian: “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."
The individual also warned that replacing journalists with software was risky. Human workers can stick to “very strict editorial guidelines” which guarantee that viewers are not presented with inappropriate content.
This is especially of concern when dealing with young viewers. Artificial intelligence may not be able to recognize particularly violent or distasteful content.
The journalists working on the Microsoft site did not report original stories. They selected stories produced by other news organizations and edited the content and headlines.