Microsoft's AI blunder: inappropriate poll sparks public outrage

Microsoft is facing backlash after it used AI to create an insensitive poll speculating on the cause of a woman's death that was published alongside an article from The Guardian on Microsoft's news aggregation service, Microsoft Start.

The article covered the tragic death of a 21-year-old water polo coach in Sydney, Australia, who was discovered dead at her school with significant head injuries.

The poll that ran next to the article asked readers, "What do you think is the reason behind the woman's death?" Readers were given three options: murder, accident, or suicide.

Many readers associated the poll with The Guardian's journalist and demanded the firing of the reporter, who had no involvement with the poll. The Guardian says it has suffered "significant reputational damage" as a result.

From The Guardian:

The chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, Anna Bateson, outlined her concerns about the AI-generated poll in a letter to Microsoft's president, Brad Smith.

She said the incident was potentially distressing for James's family and had caused "significant reputational damage" to the organisation as well as damaging the reputation of the journalists who wrote the story.

"This is clearly an inappropriate use of genAI [generative AI] by Microsoft on a potentially distressing public interest story, originally written and published by Guardian journalists," she wrote.

In response to the backlash, Microsoft deactivated AI-generated polls for all news articles and promised to investigate the cause of the inappropriate content. They also pledged to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.