Alexa, that’s not the kind of “challenge” we meant.
A mother was shocked and appalled after Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa allegedly suggested that her child try a potentially deadly TikTok challenge. A screenshot of the risky recommendation currently boasts over 10,000 likes on Twitter.
In the viral tweet posted Sunday, user Kristin Livdahl explained how her 10-year-old daughter had asked the AI helper for a “challenge” to do. The youngster had been doing some indoor physical challenges recommended by a YouTube physical education teacher and “wanted another one,” she explained in a subsequent tweet.
That’s when Alexa reportedly dropped the unexpected bombshell. “Here’s something I found on the web,” it suggested, per the Twitter screenshot. “According to ourcommunitynow.com: The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
She was referring to the “Penny” challenge, a viral stunt from several years back with the potential to create sparks, damage electrical outlets and even start fires.
In one incident from 2020, a Massachusetts high school student started a blaze after performing the hare-brained pursuit, prompting fire officials to issue a PSA, warning parents of its perils.
Ironically, the article that Alexa generated the suggestion from actually cautions parents against letting their children participate in the asinine pastime.
According to Amazon, Alexa uses Bing as the default search engine for all of her queries and the company asks users to help improve answers. “Our customers want Alexa to get smarter and more helpful to them every day,” the site notes. “To do that, we use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems using machine learning.”
However, the tech Twitterati found the incident alarming regardless.
“Why then in the love of all that is holy would an organization that should know better like @amazon sell a product that randomly selects content from the mess of the internet to use in conversation with any random person at any level of critical thinking ability?” one skeptic wrote.
“This is not an Alexa/Amazon problem,” another argued. “It is an internet literacy, critical thinking problem. What do I mean! This ‘challenge’ existed nowhere.”
“There is literally no reason to have an ‘Alexa’ in your house,” deduced another critic. “This should tell you that if it wasn’t already obvious.”
Amazon Help has since apologized for the incident on Twitter. “Hi there. We’re sorry to hear this!” they wrote. “Please reach out to us directly via the following link so that we can look into this further with you: https://amzn.to/3sGEtkT. We hope this helps. -Daragh.”
Amazon has not yet responded to The Post’s request for comment.
Amazon is not the only company that’s been accused of disseminating problematic content due to algorithms. In 2020, a Nazi-themed song went viral on TikTok, racking up more than 6.5 million views across multiple videos before getting pulled.
Michael Priem, chief executive of Modern Impact, chalked up the phenomenon to the platform’s use of “models that collect data on our content consumption and peers influenced network.”
“As specific videos gain momentum, the algorithm then promotes them more widely across the platform,” he explained. “Hence, the users [are] intuitively asking each other to ‘help this go viral.’”