Last week PC Guide reported on how Microsoft had culled several hundred journalists and replaced them with Artificial Intelligence for its news curation on MSN.com. Less than a week later, and in the midst of worldwide Black Lives Matter protests the service has been called out for confusing British girl-band Little Mix’s two mixed-race singers Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock.
Upon running a story about Jade’s personal reflections on racism, the bot chose to run it alongside a picture of Leigh-Anne.
Thirlwall tweeted, “@MSN If you’re going to copy and paste articles from other accurate media outlets, you might want to make sure you’re using an image of the correct mixed-race member of the group. This s*** happens to @leighannepinnock and I ALL THE TIME that it’s become a running joke. It offends me that you couldn’t differentiate the two women of colour out of four members of a group … DO BETTER!”
There is no suggestion according to The Guardian in the UK, that Thirlwall was aware that Microsoft now ‘employs’ AI to curate its news from either news indexers and does not write its own stories and that AI had selected the image.
A Microsoft spokesman said:” As soon as we became aware of this issue, we immediately took action to resolve it and have replaced the incorrect image.”
We would assume that rather than the AI being “racist”, the image was probably tagged wrongly in the image library by a human editor, which certainly doesn’t make things any better.
What is also concerning is that The Guardian also reported: “In advance of the publication of this article, staff at MSN were told to expect a negative article in the Guardian about alleged racist bias in the artificial intelligence software that will soon take their jobs.
Because they are unable to stop the new robot editor selecting stories from external news sites such as The Guardian, the remaining human staff have been told to stay alert and delete a version of this article if the robot decides it is of interest and automatically publishes it on MSN.com. They have also been warned that even if they delete it, the robot editor may overrule them and attempt to publish it again.”
Staff have already had to delete coverage criticizing MSN for running the story about Little Mix with the wrong image after the AI software decided stories about the incident would interest MSN readers.
It’s a bit of a disaster for Microsoft on the PR front with Little Mix being such a huge girl band on the world stage and it seems that for some time yet they are going to have to keep the odd human face around the office to keep the computers in check.