"This article has been removed and we are investigating how it made it through our review process."
Against all common sense and good taste, a now-removed AI-generated travel article published by Microsoft recommended that tourists headed to Ottawa, Canada should visit a food bank — a place that feeds the needy — in the same breath it recommended checking out a local hockey game.
"Headed to Ottawa? Here's what you shouldn't miss!" reads its title, written under the official byline of "Microsoft Travel."
The embarrassing listicle was spotted by tech writer Paris Marx on Thursday. It ranked the Ottawa Food Bank smack dab in third place among the capital's must-see tourist attractions, only below The Winterlude Festival and the National War Memorial — all of which it calls "beautiful attractions" that you "cannot miss!"
"We observe how hunger impacts men, women, and children on a daily basis... People who come to us have jobs and families to support, as well as expenses to pay," reads the AI's prose, assuming the first person perspective of the food bank for some reason — or maybe a royal "we?"
And, as a tasteless closer, the AI tries to be cute: "Consider going into it on an empty stomach."
Understandably, the Ottawa Food Bank was upset by its inclusion in a bubbly travel piece.
"Needless to say, this is not the type of messaging or 'story' we would ever put out or wish to be included in," Samantha Koziara, communications manager at the Ottawa Food Bank, told The Verge in a statement.
"The 'empty stomach' line is clearly insensitive and didn't pass by a (human) editor," she added. "To my knowledge, we haven’t seen something like this before — but as AI gets more and more popular, I don’t doubt an increased number inaccurate / inappropriate references will be made in listicles such as this."
Following reporting by The Verge, the article was hastily taken down by Microsoft.
"This article has been removed and we are investigating how it made it through our review process," Jeff Jones, Microsoft's senior director of communications, told the outlet.
A one-off take down is simply not enough, though. Microsoft's entire AI-generated catalogue should be suspect, as it's been remorselessly churning out AI-generated articles ever since it fired dozens of its journalists and editors at MSN in 2020. A lot of that output is obviously shoddy, if not outright fake news.
That seemingly every other AI-generated article requires removal after being subjected to a modicum of scrutiny should ring alarm bells to both readers and publishers — but for now, the AI journalism experiment shows no signs of relenting.
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