Microsoft has cut dozens of journalists in what is the latest example of the replacement of human jobs by automation and robots. There are 50 individuals in the United States and 27 in the United Kingdom that will be laid off by June 30th, and their jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence (AI) software.
The layoffs were not related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, they are a direct result of the current shift taking place in the economy, one that is replacing human labor with robots and AI technologies.
According to a Microsoft spokesperson, “Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. 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 Replaced Team
The individuals that will be replaced are responsible for the news homepages of Microsoft’s MSN website and Edge Browser. The decision comes as Microsoft is currently undergoing a larger reform to use more AI technology in the selection of news.
The 27 individuals in the UK are employed by PA Media, which used to be the Press Association.
One staff member who is part of the team spoke about the transition.
“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.”
AI News Selection
The staffer has concerns about how the technology will handle news selection, since humans followed “very strict editorial guidelines.” These guidelines were in place to prevent violent or inappropriate content from making it to users.
The team was tasked with selecting stories that were produced by other news organizations, and they would edit them to fit a certain format. Microsoft’s website then hosted the articles and shared advertising revenue with the original publishers. The team was also responsible for making sure the headlines were clear and formatted in the correct manner.
According to a spokesperson for PA Media, “We are in the process of winding down the Microsoft team working at PA, and we are doing everything we can to support the individuals concerned. We are proud of the work we have done with Microsoft and know we delivered a high-quality service.”
The replacement of Microsoft’s team is not an isolated incident, the automation of news and journalism is expected to spread.
Just last month, China's state media announced the newest version of its AI news anchor. It follows the same behaviors and mannerisms of a human anchor, and it can be broadcast to the public.
All of this is taking place as many media organizations are facing financial problems and have resorted to looking elsewhere in order to come up with news stories.
Microsoft in particular has already been implementing AI into their news curation. Over the past few months, the company has been encouraging the use of AI tools in order to scan, process, and filter content.