Microsoft has reportedly joined forces with Ben Smith’s media startup Semafor, leveraging AI for the ominous goal of “creating healthy information ecosystems.”
The Financial Times reports that as part of the new partnership with Ben Smith’s Semafor, Microsoft is financing the creation of an AI-powered breaking news feed named “Signals,” aiming to deliver diverse global perspectives on major stories. Signals intends to publish around a dozen posts daily, crafted entirely by journalists, with AI serving as a sophisticated research tool.
The partnership is part of Microsoft’s broader engagement with the journalistic community, including alliances with the Craig Newmark School of Journalism, the Online News Association, and the GroundTruth Project.
In a blog post on the topic, Microsoft explains its true goal:
Today, Microsoft is launching several collaborations with news organizations to adopt generative AI. In a year where billions of people will vote in democratic elections worldwide, journalism is critical to creating healthy information ecosystems, and it is our mission, working with the industry, to ensure that newsrooms can innovate to serve this year and in the future.
Founded by notorious former Buzzfeed editor Ben Smith and Justin Smith, Semafor has quickly emerged as a significant player in the digital news sphere. Funded by influential investors and boasting over 500,000 newsletter subscriptions, the platform is on the brink of profitability.
Breitbart News reporter Hanna Bleau Knudsen reported on the founding of Semafor in 2022, writing:
New York Times media columnist Ben Smith is leaving the outlet to create a global news start-up, but it remains uncertain if he plans to divest any controversial stock before working for the new outlet– an issue that lingered throughout his tenure at the Times.
The Times announced this week that Smith is leaving the outlet and teaming up with Bloomberg Media’s chief executive, Justin Smith, to create what has been described as a “new global news organization,” where he will serve as the top editor. According to the Times, the vision includes a newsroom that will break news and experiment “with new formats of storytelling.”
This move comes amidst growing apprehensions among news publishers regarding AI’s impact on content creation and distribution. The fear that AI-generated content could divert traffic and revenue from established news outlets has sparked debates on the future of journalism in the digital age. In December, the New York Times initiated a lawsuit against Microsoft and OpenAI, accusing them of unauthorized use of its content to train their AI models.
Semafor Executive Editor Gina Chua commented on the use of AI in journalism, stating: “Journalism has always used technology whether it’s carrier pigeons, the telegraph or anything else . . . this represents a real opportunity, a set of tools that are really a quantum leap above many of the other tools that have come along.”
Read more at the Financial Times here.
Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship.