Machines took another step toward doing the work of journalists.

What’s new: Microsoft laid off dozens of human editors who select articles for the MSN news service and app. Going forward, AI will do the job.

How it works: The tech giant declined to share details with The Batch, but recent papers published by its researchers describe methods for curating news feeds.

  • A system called KRED combines a knowledge graph attention network with models for entity representation, context embedding, and information distillation. The researchers trained and tested it on nearly 1.6 million interactions between readers and news items.
  • KRED also recommends local news, predicts a given article’s popularity, and classifies articles as news, entertainment, and so on. It outperformed other models on a variety of measures.
  • A system called NPA matches users with news. Separate modules analyze the relevance of individual words, learn user preferences based on clicks, and score news items according to the likelihood that a given user will click on them.
  • Microsoft also has AI that pairs photos with news articles. On Monday, this system matched a story about a singer’s experiences of racial discrimination with a photo of her Jamaican bandmate. The company told its human editors to manually remove from its news services any articles about the misstep, The Guardian reported.

Behind the news: Other efforts to automate news curation have found ways for both machines and humans to add value.

  • Apple’s News app uses algorithms to choose trending stories and fill personalized feeds while former journalists screen out fake news.
  • Facebook hired editors to help curate the stories featured on its News Tab.
  • Krishna Bharat, the inventor of Google News who had left the company but returned last year, has sharply criticized the service’s earlier overreliance on algorithmic recommendation.

Why it matters: In the internet era, information arrives in floods. AI could narrow that to an essential, manageable stream, but that’s a tall order when people depend on a broad range of accurate, timely news to help guide their course as individuals, communities, and societies.

The Batch’s editors are thinking: Yikes!

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