Microsoft is reportedly laying off at least 50 news production workers and replacing them with artificial intelligence (AI)-based algorithms to perform their editorial duties. According to a report in the Seattle Times on Saturday, the roughly 50 employees — contracted through staffing agencies Aquent, IFG and MAQ Consulting — have been notified “that their services would no longer be needed beyond June 30”.
These news production contractors work with Microsoft News, the company’s news content arm that operates MSN.com and other properties. A Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement that like all companies, they evaluate business on a regular basis.
“This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, redeployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic,” said the Microsoft spokesperson. Some employees told Seattle Times that “MSN will use AI to replace the production work they’d been doing”.
The work includes using algorithms to identify trending news stories from dozens of publishing partners, rewrite headlines or adding better photographs or slide shows. Besides the production work, the contract employees also planned content, maintained the editorial calendars of partner news websites and assigned content to them.