What do I do for a living? A third of my day is spent cleaning up other people’s messes, another third performing my actual duties, and the rest spent fucking around.
My lazy-old-guy (starvation-wage) job gives me lots of opportunity to read news all day long, consuming tiny bits of information. For that, msn.com is my place for clicking on whatever might feed my infohole, a work ritual I’ve had since I got comfortable in my role. Unfortunately, in the past year or so, msn.com has descended into a pit of right-wing disinformation with a few reputable news sources included for “balance” or some facile reminder that it was once a decent news aggregator. Here’s a recent example of their page:
Clockwise: OPlaneta is actually a climate change-denier site that mostly runs conspiracy theories and tons of articles misconstruing data sets; The Western Journal is heavily cowboy-church right; The Evening Standard (the first quasi-reputable outlet in this list) is infamously conservative in the British tight-ass jingoistic delusion of empire and inbred insanity; an ad, because they gotta make a buck; Fox News, don’t think anything needs to be said about that; American Insider, another dubious “news source” and often outright racist; and, BNN Breaking which is—I mean, where does MSN get these right-wing bullshit mongers? BTW, this is not a cherry-picked screenshot of an msn.com page, I hardly had to scroll at all for that image.
These issues have been simmering in my brain for almost a year but I could never articulate why it msn.com had changed so terribly, so I never pulled the trigger on my ire. And then this piece made me pop:
The site, which comes pre-loaded as the default start page on devices running Microsoft software, including on Microsoft’s latest “Edge” browser, the successor of the company’s Internet Explorer browser, employed more than 800 editors in 2018 to help select and curate news stories shown to millions of readers around the world.
But in recent years Microsoft has laid off editors, some of whom were told they were being replaced by “automation,” what they understand to be AI.
AI was never a boogeyman I believed in but the article gave me the chills. If it’s algorithms determining what information (and disinformation) msn.com is throwing up (literally and figuratively) on their website, a site that greets countless millions when they boot up their computer, then AI is a definite threat, delivering content that is racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and anti-democratic.
How widespread is that threat? It’s impossible to know:
Microsoft refused to say how many, if any, human editors still work on curating the site or if it is all done by AI and algorithms.
Scrolling through the Microsoft homepage a few weeks ago, Pfeuffer (a laid-off msn.com news editor, my note) said it appeared unrecognizable to the portal she and her colleagues once curated. Not only have objectively false and outlandish stories been featured on the site, but overtly hyper-partisan articles with headlines like “Should America Get Rid of Biden for Good?” and “A Darker Side of the Catastrophe Unfolding Under Joe Biden” have also gained prominence.
Those stories, which CNN has observed on Microsoft’s homepage, were not published by credible and established news organizations, but instead originated on smaller sites with little or no information about who is behind them or details on their editorial standards.
So, how does the msn.com AI decide what’s newsworthy, immediate, vital information, versus what get buried ten pages down? Well, only an idiot wouldn’t believe that those “smaller sites with little or no information about who is behind them or details on their editorial standards” aren’t funded by the people who benefit from the hate fueling the engine of fascism.
To sum this edition up (oh msn.com, I’m not done with you yet, motherfucker)—in order to put more money into the pockets of people who already too much money, working stiffs were let go because computers could do those jobs, unconstrained by issues of ethics, standards, or the need to eat. A little palm-greasing ensures the POV of the people applying the lotion since the aggregate relies on ranking—pay to play and show up with the prominence of a millionaire, a corporate squawker cracking nuts and repeating the same thing over and over again.
Click bait aside, msn.com is so fucking lazy it runs stories for months, an unsolved murder in Australia or some insane water issue in Missouri, the same article runs again and again, icymi I guess but they aren’t even like huge stories. FFS msn.com, flush every once in a while.