American multinational Microsoft is expected to not renew job agreements of almost 50 news production contractors working at Microsoft News service. The tech giant plans to use artificial intelligence to replace them.
Employees contracted through staffing agencies Aquent, IFG and MAQ Consulting were informed mid-week that their assistance would no longer be required past June 30.
“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis. This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.”
– Microsoft Statement
Full-time news producers hired by Microsoft will be maintained by the company even though they deliver duties comparable to those being let go. Contracted news producer jobs have been also been eliminated.
Some employees said that MSN will use AI to substitute the production work they’d been doing. That work involves using algorithms to recognize trending news stories from dozens of publishing partners and to further optimize the content by rephrasing headlines or combining better supportive photographs or slide shows.
“It’s been semi-automated for a few months but now it’s full speed ahead. It’s demoralizing to think machines can replace us but there you go.’’
– One of the terminated contractors
Other than the production work, the contract workers also organized content, managed the editorial calendars of partner news websites and designated content to them.
MSN has experienced plenty of modifications since its launch as Microsoft Network in 1995. Once a web portal and default internet homepage for millions of personal machines, it proposed original content and links to news, weather and sports.
In 2013, it rolled back original news content and began cutting employees. By 2014, it started a redesigned variant that partnered with other news sites by remunerating them to spread their content.
Today, the news service depends entirely on those associations with no original news content of its own. Curating stories rather than actually creating them made it more comfortable for MSN to frequently rely on an automated editing system, though several of the terminated workers showed suspicion it will work as well with fewer human beings to observe the technology.