Microsoft robot editor confuses Little Mix band members

Occurred: June 2020

Microsoft's artificial intelligence software illustrated a news story about racism with a photograph of the wrong mixed-race member of the girl band Little Mix. 

A story about Little Mix singer Jade Thirlwall’s personal reflections on racism was illustrated with a picture of fellow band member Leigh-Anne Pinnock, prompting a reprimand from Thirlwall. Both are mixed race. 

Microsoft's 'robot' editor then picked up and re-published a Guardian story about the mix-up, only for Microsoft staff to delete it. 

A few days before, The Guardian had warned that Microsoft's decision to replace the jobs of dozens of journalists and editors running its Microsoft News and MSN sites with artificial intelligence would results in mistakes such as the story involving Jade Thirlwall.

Microsoft later said the problem had not arisen as a result of algorithmic bias but due to an experimental feature in the automated system.

Operator: Microsoft
Developer: Microsoft

Country: USA

Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts

Purpose: Suggest photographs

Technology: Machine learning; NLP/text analysis; Neural networks; Deep learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - race

Transparency: Governance

Page info
Type: Incident
Published: January 2023