Microsoft 'Little Mix' AI editor racial bias

Occurred: June 2020

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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 public backlash from Thirlwall.

Microsoft staff then had to delete negative coverage about the Little Mix story after the AI decided stories about the incident would interest MSN readers. 

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

The mix-up comes a week after Microsoft announced it was terminating the jobs of dozens of journalists and editors running its Microsoft News and MSN sites, and replacing them with artificial intelligence. 

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