Microsoft’s recent use of an AI-generated poll has sparked criticism from The Guardian, one of the UK’s leading news publishers. The tech giant’s news aggregation service displayed the automated poll alongside a Guardian article detailing the tragic death of Lilie James, a young water polo coach from Sydney.
Controversial AI poll raises eyebrows
The poll asked readers to speculate on James’s death, giving three choices: murder, accident, or suicide. Many readers found the poll insensitive. Some even demanded the firing of the Guardian reporter linked to the story, even though they didn’t create the poll.
Anna Bateson, Guardian Media Group’s Chief Executive, shared her concerns in a letter to Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president. She stressed the poll’s potential harm to James’s family and the damage to The Guardian’s reputation.
Guardian seeks assurances from Microsoft
In her letter, Bateson demanded two key assurances from Microsoft. Firstly, she insisted that Microsoft refrain from using experimental AI technology alongside Guardian journalism without explicit approval from the news publisher. Secondly, she called for clear indications to users when AI tools are employed to create additional content adjacent to trusted news brands.
Moreover, she suggested Microsoft should add a note to the article, accepting responsibility for the poll.
The role of AI in journalism
This incident underscores the broader debate about the role and limitations of AI in journalism. While AI can enhance news distribution, it can also cause issues when used insensitively. Bateson mentioned the need for a strong copyright system, allowing publishers to set terms for using their content.
Microsoft, licensed to share The Guardian’s content, showcased the article and poll on their platform, Microsoft Start.
As the industry grapples with the challenges and opportunities presented by AI, Bateson’s comments serve as a reminder of the need for transparency, safeguards, and a commitment to prioritizing trusted information.