Microsoft has launched a probe after a leading UK-based newspaper slammed the tech giant for an AI-generated poll on one of the news articles. The poll ran within Microsoft’s curated news aggregator platform Microsoft Start.
The poll was about the death of a 21-year-old woman — a news article done by The Guardian. The report was on Lilie James, a water polo coach who was found dead with serious head injuries at a high school in Sydney, Australia.
The poll asked the online users “What do you think is the reasons behind the woman’s death?” The intention was to get answers based on readers’ votes on whether they thought the woman had died by murder, suicide or accident.
The users also reacted sharply to the polls, as one of the reactions read, “This has to be the most pathetic, disgusting poll I’ve seen. The author should be ashamed.”
Another user said in a sarcastic tone that it’s “nice to know we can take a poll on how this woman died”.
The Guardian accused Microsoft of causing “significant reputational damage” with an AI-generated poll.
The Guardian Media Group accused Microsoft of causing “significant reputational damage” with an AI-generated poll, and on Tuesday, it asked the tech giant to take responsibility for the poll publicly.
In a statement to Axios on Wednesday, Microsoft said that a “poll should not have appeared alongside an article of this nature, and we are taking steps to help prevent this kind of error from reoccurring in the future”.
Watch: Linkedin crosses 1 billion users
As reported by Axios, Guardian CEO Anna Bateson wrote to Microsoft president Brad Smith: “This is clearly an inappropriate use of genAI by Microsoft on a potentially distressing public interest story, originally written and published by Guardian journalists.”
Bateson’s letter added that “this application of genAI by Microsoft is exactly the sort of instance that we have warned about in relation to news”.
It added that a “key reason why we have previously requested to your teams that we do not want Microsoft’s experimental genAI technologies applied to journalism licensed from the Guardian”.
In the letter, she even argued that Microsoft should take “full responsibility for it” and even suggested that they should run a poll on it.
Bateson asked Microsoft to assure that it will not apply “experimental technologies on or alongside Guardian licensed journalism” without its explicit approval.