Microsoft launched the investigation after a major UK-based newspaper accused the company of running an AI-generated opinion poll for one of its news articles. The poll was conducted within Microsoft’s curated news aggregator platform, Microsoft Start.
The poll was about the death of a 21-year-old woman, The Guardian reported. The report was about Lily James, a water polo coach who was found dead with severe head injuries at a high school in Sydney, Australia.
The poll asked online users, “What do you think is the reason behind the woman’s death?” The goal was to get answers based on readers’ votes on whether they thought the woman died by murder, suicide, or an accident.
Users also reacted sharply to the poll, with one saying: “This is probably the most pathetic and disgusting poll I’ve ever seen. The author should be ashamed.”
Another user said sarcastically: “It’s nice to be able to take a poll about how this woman died.”
The Guardian accused Microsoft of causing “significant reputational damage” with its AI-generated poll.
Guardian Media Group accused Microsoft of causing “significant reputational damage” with its AI-generated poll, and on Tuesday called on the tech giant to publicly take responsibility for the poll.
“The poll should not have been published alongside this type of article, and we are taking steps to prevent this type of error from happening again in the future,” Microsoft said in a statement to Axios on Wednesday. said.
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Axios reported that Guardian CEO Anna Bateson sent a letter to Microsoft President Brad Smith saying: “This is clearly an inappropriate use of genAI by Microsoft on a potentially distressing public interest article originally written and published by a Guardian journalist.”
Bateson’s letter added: “This application of genAI by Microsoft is exactly the example we have been warning about in connection with the news.”
It added: “This is a key reason why we previously asked your team not to apply Microsoft’s experimental genAI technology to journalism licensed from the Guardian.”
In his letter, he claimed Microsoft should take “full responsibility” and even suggested an investigation should be conducted.
Mr Bateson called on Microsoft to ensure it would not apply “experimental techniques on or in conjunction with Guardian-sanctioned journalism” without explicit approval.