Microsoft’s Claim on the Listing of the Ottawa Food Bank as a Tourist Destination

Microsoft’s claim on the listing of the Ottawa Food Bank as a tourist destination. The company says the latter was not the result of ‘unsupervised AI.’ The human oversight curating algorithmic content on MSN in a way missed a list of tourist hot spots that reportedly put the food bank at number 3.

Microsoft’s Ottawa Food Bank Tourist Destination

Microsoft’s Ottawa Food Bank Tourist Destination

A Microsoft travel guide slated for Ottawa, Canada, prominently recommended tourists to visit the Ottawa Food Bank, as seen by Paris Marx until it was reportedly taken down after the article was originally published. The food bank as you should know was the No. 3 recommendation on the list, in the process sitting behind the National War Memorial and well above going to an Ottawa Senators hockey game.

We reported back in 2020 about Microsoft reportedly laying off journalists at Microsoft News and MSN in order to replace them with artificial intelligence. However, the company has stated that its content is not generated by the AI that we are now used to in the form of large language models powering tools such as the Bing chatbot or the popular ChatGPT. But instead, the content in the story of Microsoft was generated via “a combination of algorithmic techniques with human review,” as per the company. And just as explained in a statement to The Verge from Jeff Jones, a senior director at Microsoft:

What Microsoft Has To Say about the Article

“This article has been removed and we have identified that the issue was due to human error. The article was not published by an unsupervised AI. We combine the power of technology with the experience of content editors to surface stories. In this case, the content was generated through a combination of algorithmic techniques with human review, not a large language model or AI system. We are working to ensure this type of content isn’t posted in future.”

“Every day our algorithms comb through hundreds of thousands of pieces of content sent by our partners,” Microsoft states on the “About Us” page for its Microsoft Start program. “We process it to understand dimensions like freshness, category, topic type, opinion content, and potential popularity and publish according to user preferences. This is combined with human oversight to ensure that the content we show aligns with our values and that crucial information features prominently in our experiences.”

The Ottawa Food Bank’s Website 

For those that are curious, here is the Ottawa Food Bank’s website if it is that you would like to donate. It just recently moved to a new location because of demand that has spiked by 85 percent since 2019. And while support is being encouraged, CEO Rachael Wilson told CBC back in June, “Our hope is one day to close our doors … to reduce the number of people who need a food bank.”

Each section present in the article, bylined vaguely by “Microsoft Travel,” had a short text description of what it is that you can expect from the destination. Microsoft’s summary for the food bank is inclusive of an astoundingly awful statement given the context of the place that it was talking about: “People who come to us have jobs and families to support, as well as expenses to pay. Life is already difficult enough. Consider going into it on an empty stomach.”

What the Ottawa Food Bank Have To Say About the Incident

“Needless to say, this is not the type of messaging or ‘story’ we would ever put out or wish to be included in,” Samantha Koziara, communications manager at the Ottawa Food Bank, in a statement to The Verge on Thursday stated. “The ‘empty stomach’ line is clearly insensitive and didn’t pass by a (human) editor. To my knowledge, we haven’t seen something like this before — but as AI gets more and more popular, I don’t doubt an increased number of inaccurate/inappropriate references will be made in listicles such as this. This simply highlights the importance of researchers, writers, and editors… of the human variety.”

Publications Using AI to Write Articles

Other publishers more recently have all turned to artificial intelligence in a bid to supplement or even replace the work of humans but at most times to poor results. Just recently, an AI-written article from Gizmodo failed to correctly list Star Wars movies in chronological order. CNET reportedly issued corrections on dozens of AI-written stories. BuzzFeed, just like Microsoft, has also used AI to write travel guides.



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