Microsoft’s announcement that it will soon begin working with news organizations in adopting “generative” artificial intelligence (AI) has critics worried that the tech giant could use its powerful platform to advance a political agenda ahead of the 2024 election.
Microsoft, which billionaire Bill Gates founded, states it has decided to enter the field of journalism to help create a “healthy information ecosystem,” according to a statement released by the company on Feb. 5.
In promoting its new technology, the company declared it would help “organizations identify and refine the procedures and policies to use AI responsibly in newsgathering and business practices, helping train a new generation of reporters on best uses of AI and identify ways AI can help create efficient business practices and help build sustainable newsrooms for generations to come.”
The growing alliance between Big Tech and journalism has raised concerns that Mr. Gates may use the new technology to push a narrative that would advance his left-leaning political positions or financial interests.
Tech expert Jake Denton, a research associate at The Heritage Foundation’s Tech Policy Center, told The Epoch Times that people are right to be skeptical of the marriage.
“These are the same recycled coders who have worked on this project, who we have also seen tasked with designing trust and safety layers that were monitoring Twitter and Facebook, only this time with a way more powerful tool,” said Mr. Denton. “In theory, it is totally harmless, but in practice, you can see the writing on the wall.
“It is going to have a downstream effect on everything we read and watch,” he added.
Mr. Denton said the bias occurs through a “trust and safety layer pre-programmed into the model that filters acceptable outputs and limits what gets sent back to the user” when the tool is used to help generate media.
“In this scenario, Microsoft is viewed as an unbiased entity, but in reality, they are essentially going to be able to use this tool to assert editorial review and discretion,” said Mr. Denton, adding that the level of potential bias can be circumvented by the time and attentiveness individual media organizations put into the editing process.
“At the end of the day, there are going to be publications that are concerned about trust and safety and bias and ones that embrace the filter, and who would be most comfortable with that trust and safety layer automating away that editorial role,” said Mr. Denton.
Among the concerns is that those who create the “trust and safety” editing layers have an agenda that drives how the AI products are developed.
Mr. Gates, an investor in Upside Foods, one of the two synthetic meat producers approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has voiced his concern that wealthy countries must stop eating red meat to save the world from upcoming catastrophic climate events caused by greenhouse gases.
“All rich countries should move to 100% synthetic beef. You can get used to the taste difference, and the claim is they’re going to make it taste even better over time,” Mr. Gates told the interviewer.
“Eventually, that green premium is modest enough that you can sort of change the people or use regulation to totally shift demand. So for meat in the middle-income-and-above countries, I do think it’s possible,” he said.
Further, Mr. Gates has promoted the controversial COVID-19 vaccine. At the same time, an organization he funds, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), has become a partner in helping to develop a thermostable mRNA vaccine film delivered under the tongue instead of into the arm. The Gates-funded group has announced it will initially provide up to $1.2 million to help develop a “3D structure of mRNA-containing lipid nanoparticle (LNP) vaccine materials,” according to the company.
While the outspoken beliefs held by Mr. Gates don’t necessarily mean his product will be imbued with the same messaging, it raises questions over a potential lack of objectivity, according to Mr. Denton.
Concerns over media manipulation in the electoral process have increased after revelations that several major news organizations selectively curated information ahead of the 2020 presidential election that could have impacted the results, including the origins of Hunter Biden’s laptop, originally reported as “Russian disinformation.”
While AI may be sold to media organizations as an unbiased way to increase revenue through raising productivity in the newsroom, the beliefs of its creators will probably be “baked into” the program, according to Mr. Denton.
“None of us trust any of these organizations. We’ve seen them burn a lot of that down over the past few years. How are we supposed to now trust them with these AI tools and expect a different result this time?”