From July 2020, the MSN homepage will no longer feature news stories written, curated and selected by journalists. Instead, the stories will be generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) software. This comes after Microsoft, which owns the MSN news website, has informed the company it contracted to do this that it will no longer require the services of its journalists in a month.

The Press Association (PA) Media, the company that Microsoft contracted to perform this work, informed its journalists that they will no longer be required to generate news stories for the MSN homepage and Edge browser landing page. What has been concerning is the short notice that Microsoft gave PA Media as it appears this has not been something that was being discussed over several.

“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," one of the journalists' is reported to have said.

The Tefo Mohapi Show: Dr. Vukosi Marivate on how Artificial Intelligence can be used to fight fake news

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Can AI replace humans?

Science fiction movies and television shows are often filled with depictions of a future where robots and AI software replace many of the jobs and tasks that humans typically perform. However, this could be slightly exaggerated as some functions require nuance and an understanding of context to carry them out.

Journalism is one of those functions. What is written, how it is written and why it is written are not just rules and algorithms you can feed into software. An understanding of the zeitgeist is also necessary when writing or curating news stories, something that AI would typically not be aware of.

Added to that, most newsrooms have editorial guidelines which are open to interpretation depending on the context they are applied to.

AI as a move to reduce costs

For several years, the media industry has been experiencing a significant downturn in revenues. The move by Microsoft will definitely add to this and raise other concerns.

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The MSN website for example, generates income through display advertising, by using AI to write and curate news stories that appear on it, Microsoft stands to reduce their costs. Although this announcement only affects the journalists in the United Kingdom, it is highly likely that journalists the company uses in other parts of the world will be affected too.

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