How's AI in the media going? Well, Microsoft apparently ran a disgusting AI-generated poll next to a syndicated article about a woman who'd been found dead in Australia — and The Guardian, which published the original article in question, wants answers.
As The Guardian reports in its own recounting of the incident, the article that Microsoft re-published on its MSN news portal focused on the death of a young 20-something woman in Sydney, whose body was found at the school where she worked as a water polo coach.
Unsurprisingly, police are considering the case as a possible murder — but the classless poll still questioned whether readers thought the woman had died by suicide, murder, or accident. Beneath the question, a disclaimer that the poll was part of the company's "insights from AI" somehow made the tasteless poll even more egregious.
In a letter sent to Microsoft president Brad Smith that the newspaper quoted, Guardian Media Group CEO Anna Bateson said the debacle was not only potentially upsetting to the family of the young woman, but that it also poses "significant reputational damage" to The Guardian and the journalists who wrote the article.
"This is clearly an inappropriate use of [generative AI] by Microsoft on a potentially distressing public interest story, originally written and published by Guardian journalists," Bateson wrote in her letter to Smith.
The CEO, per the entire text of the letter provided to The Verge, added that although Microsoft has a license to republish The Guardian on MSN, the publisher had previously asked the tech giant not to use its "experimental" AI alongside its licensed work without the company's approval.
Bateson also demanded Microsoft explain how it plans to compensate its news partners when it uses their intellectual property "in the training and live deployment of AI technologies within your wider business ventures."
Microsoft should, the CEO added, take "full responsibility" for the passé poll, which has since been removed from Microsoft's syndication of the story. In a statement provided to Futurism, a Microsoft spokesperson said that the company has deactivated its poll feature and is "investigating the cause of the inappropriate content."
"A poll should not have appeared alongside an article of this nature," the spokesperson continued, "and we are taking steps to help prevent this kind of error from reoccurring in the future."
Anyone who's kept up with Futurism's AI reporting this year knows that Microsoft's syndication service — which has had its own AI plagiarism issues — is just one of many platforms dabbling in AI-generated content.
From BuzzFeed to CNET, disastrous pivots to AI have made fools of numerous media CEOs who placed losing bets early on the burgeoning chatbot technology — and in spite of all those bungles, we have yet to see a single really impressive deployment of AI in media.
More on the AI of it all: LinkedIn Laying Off 700 as Microsoft Pivots to AI
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