Artificial ignorance

Microsoft’s move to replace MSN.com’s human editors with artificial intelligence has resulted in the software misidentifying one woman of colour for another – before regurgitating other outlets’ stories about the error and overruling the remaining human staff’s attempts to delete them.

Offensive, irrelevant and unapologetic: now there’s an algorithm made for its web portal. Getting Little Mix bandmates Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock confused and not caring who knows it almost evokes the spirit of the robot editor’s slightly more sentient former counterpart Paul Dacre.

“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,” said Little Mix’s Thirlwall, exacerbating suspicions of the software’s racist bias.

The Guardian has attributed the following quote to one of the few Microsoft staffers yet to be fired during a pandemic: “With all the anti-racism protests at the moment, now is not the time to be making mistakes.” Downtime suspects, however, due to the comment’s lack of any semblance of understanding that this is unacceptable regardless of the climate, that the article has misidentified a racist robot for a human being.

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