Microsoft is replacing up to 50 journalists and replacing them with AI robots designed to pick suitable news stories.
Around 50 contract news producers in the UK and US will lose their jobs at the end of June but a team of full-time journalists will remain.
Staff at PA Media, which has a contract to supply the MSN website with news articles, were informed by email on Thursday that they were being replaced by machines.
Around 27 staff are believed to be employed on the project in the UK. They have been told their jobs will be gone within a month.
Microsoft News moved under Bing, the company’s search arm, as part of a reorg earlier this year.
“Like all companies, we evaluate our business on a regular basis,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. “This can result in increased investment in some places and, from time to time, re-deployment in others. These decisions are not the result of the current pandemic.”
Speaking to the Seattle Times, which broke the story, one US-based employee said: ‘It’s been semi-automated for a few months but now it’s full speed ahead. It’s demoralising to think machines can replace us but there you go.’
Microsoft is one of many tech companies experimenting with forms of so-called robot journalism to cut costs. Google is also investing in projects to understand how it might work
Using robots to decide what headlines and stories readers see is a topic of intense debate as tech giants such as Facebook and YouTube deal with similar dilemmas for their feeds.