Microsoft is further cutting back its MSN team amid a controversial shift to automation and AI for content decisions previously left to human editors.
After previously eliminating dozens of MSN contract positions, the company is now laying off an unspecified number of direct employees from MSN, including some senior leaders on the Microsoft News editorial team, according to people familiar with the situation.
Microsoft made cuts across the company as part of its annual fiscal year-end business review, one of these people said. Its fiscal year ends June 30, and it’s common for Microsoft to restructure some of its operations in conjunction with the annual milestone. Overall, the cutbacks this year appear much smaller than the thousands of employees laid off by the company in some years past.
The company isn’t commenting publicly on the cuts at MSN or other groups.
Last week, in an article for Motherboard, former MSN Money editor Bryan Joiner detailed his experience being replaced by an algorithm. Joiner was a contractor for MSN who, like dozens of full-time journalists, lost his job in June. Microsoft replaced the team tasked with curating and editing MSN news content with AI software.
After news the earlier layoffs surfaced, Microsoft’s software misidentified a member of the British pop group Little Mix. The mistake “trended vigorously” because it came so soon after MSN let its human editors go, Joiner wrote.
“Based on how far they’ve come down this road, the algorithm will sink or swim on its own, which is to say it’ll probably sink and take down the whole of MSN with it,” he wrote. “Maybe that’s overstating things, but MSN is low enough in the Microsoft hierarchy that its existence has felt like it was on the chopping block for years.”
Monica Nickelsburg contributed to this report.