Microsoft 'algorithm' recommends Ottawa Food Bank visit

Occurred: August 2023

An automated article published on Microsoft's Start website recommended a food bank in Ottawa, Canada, as a top place for tourists to visit.

'People who come to us have jobs and families to support, as well as expenses to pay. Life is already difficult enough. Consider going into it on an empty stomach,' the article said.

Microsoft deleted the offending item after a swift backlash that accused the technology company of poorly managing its AI system, and putting technology above humans. Microsoft had replaced dozens of journalists and editors running its Microsoft News and MSN sites with artificial intelligence, resulting in several mix-ups

In this instance, the article 'was generated through a combination of algorithmic techniques with human review, not a large language model or AI system' and that the problem 'was due to human error', a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge.

Operator: Microsoft/Microsft Start
Developer: Microsoft
Country: USA
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Generate text
Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning; Reinforcement learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Mis/disinformation
Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: September 2023
Last updated: November 2023