Microsoft teams up with Semafor to use AI tools for news

February 6, 2024

Microsoft AI Regulation

Microsoft is teaming up with media platform Semafor to help its journalists leverage AI to create news content.

Media companies are cautiously feeling their way around AI with understandable sensitivities from journalists. The internet has changed how people consume news and AI is poised to deliver the next disruption to the industry.

Semafor is a tech news startup founded by Ben Smith, former editor of BuzzFeed News, and Justin Smith, former Bloomberg Media CEO. BuzzFeed News was dissolved last year as its management team was unable to find a way to run it profitably.

With support from Microsoft, Semafor is launching a breaking news feed called Signals. Semafor says Signals will “offer readers diverse, sophisticated perspectives and insights on the biggest stories in the world as they develop.” Microsoft’s support is part of a wider collaboration including CUNY’s journalism school, The GroundTruth Project, The Online News Association, and Nota.

Microsoft said it will help these news organizations to “use AI to grow audiences, streamline time-consuming tasks in the newsroom, and build sustainable business operations.”

While journalists will write the content, Signals will rely on AI tools from Microsoft and OpenAI to research the news stories and keep a finger on the pulse of developments as they happen.

Getting curated, distilled, and up-to-date news without having to read multiple sources sounds like a good idea. Will AI be able to help human journalists do this better and faster while retaining objectivity? We look forward to finding out.

Exactly how that AI-assisted research will be done is unclear. You’d have to assume it involves an AI bot scraping news content, analyzing it, and then aggregating it into something the journalist could turn into a story with some analysis.

Scraping news content has already landed Microsoft and OpenAI in court facing a lawsuit from The New York Times. OpenAI has since tried more legitimate routes. Last year it partnered with the Axel Springer media house to bring news content into ChatGPT at some point.

If you’re a media house with journalists doing real investigations and breaking stories, you’ll probably be quick to block AI scraper bots. However, when one of the myriads of copycat ‘news’ websites reproduces your story on their website, the AI scraper bot could just grab it from their site.

Social media platforms are great for real-time access to breaking stories, but Semafor says platforms like X face the challenge of “misinformation that goes unregulated.” Elon Musk may dispute that.

How an AI prone to hallucination will separate facts from fiction or which political ideologies it will take a preference to, remain to be seen.

You’ve also got to wonder, if AI is finding the story, how long will it be until it writes it too?

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Eugene van der Watt

Eugene comes from an electronic engineering background and loves all things tech. When he takes a break from consuming AI news you'll find him at the snooker table.


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