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9 Jun, 2020 14:59

Little Mix-up: Microsoft's new 'robot' journalists already in hot water after confusing multi-racial girl group

Little Mix-up: Microsoft's new 'robot' journalists already in hot water after confusing multi-racial girl group

Microsoft's news portal may have saved money by replacing journalists with AI, but it appears even news-curating bots are not immune to triggering social media outrage.

The tech giant recently replaced a team of journalists who maintain its news portal, MSN.com, with artificial intelligence software capable of selecting and publishing stories from around the web. But it appears that the bots still have a lot to learn when it comes to ensuring that it doesn't rile easily-offended news consumers.

In one of its debut performances, the news-curating AI compiled a story about Little Mix singer Jade Thirlwall's personal reflections on racism. It was a shrewd selection, but there was a major blunder during its execution: The bot illustrated the article with a photograph of fellow band member Leigh-Anne Pinnock.


The error was particularly painful because Thirlwall had recently attended a Black Lives Matter protest in London. In an Instagram post, she aired her anger over being confused with her colleague, calling the mix-up "ignorant."

"If you're going to copy and paste articles from other accurate media outlets, you might want to make sure you're using an image of the correct mixed race member of the group," she wrote, adding: "It offends me that you couldn't differentiate the two women of colour out of four members of a group … DO BETTER!"

Thirlwall is British, Egyptian and Yemeni, while Pinnock is Barbadian and Jamaican.

Also on rt.com AI to choose your news? Microsoft to get rid of journalists & replace them with ROBOTS

To make matters even more embarrassing, the news-gathering bot reportedly published a story about its own mistake, after concluding the scandal would be interesting for MSN readers. Staff then had to manually remove the articles, the Guardian reported.

Microsoft told the paper that it "immediately took action" to correct the issue once it was made aware of the mix-up.

With anti-racism protests spreading across the United States and Europe, the error couldn't have come at a worse time. It's unclear, however, if bots can be "canceled."

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