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AI gone wrong: False news stories visible on Microsoft homepage are automated

Rebecca Barnabi
artificial intelligence
(© Kaikoro – stock.adobe.com)

While Microsoft and company President Brad Smith have published about using artificial intelligence (AI) responsibly, the web site’s latest “Edge” home browser has been sharing stories generated by AI.

The false stories are visible on the company’s homepage, which is also known as MSN.com and Microsoft Start, and is one of the world’s most trafficked websites, as reported by CNN.

Microsoft began relying on automation and AI after laying off more than 800 editors in 2018.

“As with any product or service, we continue to adjust our processes and are constantly updating our existing policies and defining new ones to handle emerging trends. We are committed to addressing the recent issue of low-quality articles contributed to the feed and are working closely with our content partners to identify and address issues to ensure they are meeting our standards,” a Microsoft spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday.

On top of that Microsoft is evading questions from CNN and British newspaper The Guardian about the use of AI in journalism. Stories have included that President Joe Biden fell asleep during a moment of silence for victims of the Maui wildfire, a conspiracy theory that the latest surge in COVID-19 cases is orchestrated by the Democratic Party ahead of the election and an obituary for a late NBA player that described him as “useless.”

Microsoft invested early in OpenAI and Smith followed up by publicly lecturing on responsibly using the technology.

The Guardian accused Microsoft Tuesday of damaging the newspaper’s reputation after publication of an article from the homepage site. Microsoft has licensing agreements with news organizations all over the world, including The Guardian and CNN which allow sharing of content.

In August 2023, the story about Biden falling asleep appeared on the homepage. Other false stories followed. Obscure websites reshared the content so it went unnoticed at first. However, then Microsoft republished the articles from the obscure sites for potentially millions of more readers.

Former Microsoft editors told CNN that sharing articles from low-quality websites would not be featured prominently if not for the use of AI. Microsoft would not tell CNN how many, if any, editors remain with the company.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.