Microsoft’s AI Editor Can’t Tell Difference Between Two Mixed-Race Little Mix Stars

by : Emily Brown on : 09 Jun 2020 15:44
Microsoft's AI Editor Can't Tell Difference Between Two Mixed-Race Little Mix StarsPA Images

Microsoft’s decision to replace human editors with artificial intelligence (AI) has caused more controversy after its AI technology confused images of two mixed-race members of Little Mix.

At the end of last month, news emerged of the company’s plans to introduce its AI code in place of MSN.com staff who were in charge of selecting, editing and repurposing articles from other news outlets before sharing them to site.


Shortly after an early rollout of the software was put in place, MSN posted a story about singer Jade Thirlwall and her personal experiences with racism. However, the image illustrating the article showed her fellow Little Mix member, Leigh-Anne Pinnock.

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Both Jade and Leigh-Anne are mixed-race, and after seeing MSN’s blunder Jade took to social media to criticise the outlet.

In a post on Instagram, she wrote:


@MSN If you’re going to copy and paste articles from other accurate media outlets, you might want to make sure you’re using an image of the correct mixed race member of the group.

This sh*t happens to @leighannepinnock and I ALL THE TIME that it’s become a running joke. It offends me that you couldn’t differentiate the two women of colour out of four members of a group … DO BETTER!

According to sources from Microsoft, cited by The Guardian, the image used in the article had been selected by the AI software. The news outlet fired a number of its staff towards the end of last month in the hopes they could be replaced by the electronic system, though the failings in the AI are evident.

A spokesperson commented:


As soon as we became aware of this issue, we immediately took action to resolve it and have replaced the incorrect image.


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MSN does not post original articles, but hosts pieces repurposed from other outlets and shares advertising revenue with the original publishers. As staff are unable to stop the AI system from selecting certain stories, the remain human workers have been told to stay alert and delete any content they don’t want on site.

One staff member apparently revealed Microsoft was deeply concerned about potential damage to the reputation of its AI product, saying:


With all the anti-racism protests at the moment, now is not the time to be making mistakes.

It’s not exactly clear why the AI system selected the wrong picture for the Jade’s story – it could potentially have been down to faulty facial recognition or incorrect labelling of the photo – but needless to say the mistakes aren’t excusable.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Music, Artificial Intelligence, little mix, Microsoft


The Guardian and 1 other
  1. The Guardian

    Microsoft's robot editor confuses mixed-race Little Mix singers

  2. Jade Thirwall/Instagram