Amazon Echo

photo: Alex Cranz – Gizmodo

You may want to unplug your Amazon Alexa speaker before it can have a dangerous impact on your children.

Digital assistants are supposed to provide helpful answers and suggestions, but when a 10-year-old girl asked her for a challenge, Amazon’s Alexa gave her a potentially fatal answer.

Instead of suggesting a lighthearted game or physical activity, Alexa told the girl to play with a live outlet, as her mother Kristin Livdahl described on a Twitter thread.

“The challenge is simple,” said Alexa. “Plug a phone charger into an outlet about halfway, then touch the exposed prongs with a dime.”

These instructions could have caused serious harm had the 10-year-old not known better or if her parent hadn’t been around. That’s because (as you might have learned as a child), inserting metals that are good conductors into a socket can cause electric shocks or start fires.

Amazon responded to Luvdahl’s concerned tweet a day later, asking her to reach out directly so it could investigate. The retail giant eventually fixed the issue, telling Indy100:

“Customer trust is at the heart of everything we do, and Alexa is designed to provide customers with accurate, relevant and helpful information,” said an Amazon spokesperson. “As soon as we became aware of this error, we acted quickly to correct it.”

Amazon hasn’t stated why its digital assistant gave life-threatening instructions to a young girl, but it’s important to know that Alexa doesn’t pull answers out of thin air. The wizard is only as smart as the internet, and this time his answer comes from a post on ourcommunitynews.com describing a challenge that circulated on social media about a year ago.

The so-called “Outlet Challenge” challenged easily influenced young people to put a coin into a socket. As is often the case with these brain-dead internet challenges, at least some people followed the dangerous instructions. It got to a point where the The Massachusetts Police have issued a warning after two teenagers charged with arson burned electrical outlets at their high school.

Some people may be wondering why anyone should own an Alexa product in the first place. Livdahl says she and her daughter were doing some physical challenges from a PE teacher on YouTube when the weather got colder and she wanted another assignment, so she asked her Echo, which she was given, for suggestions.

Following the advice of a friendly Twitter user, Livdahl says that she will enable kid mode on her Echo so she can have more control over the satanic speaker.

It’s worrying that something so dangerous could come out of the mouth of a product launched by one of the largest tech companies in the world. We don’t know exactly why this happened, but it is clear that Amazon’s algorithms are not good enough to validate the information they pull from various online sources. And that’s not the case with other personal assistants.

When I asked the Google Assistant about a challenge, it came up with fun thought exercises that seem like more custom answers than something that came from a random website. Here are some of the challenges Google faces.

“You found a magical cinema ticket that allows you to become a character in any movie, but it’s a one-way ticket. Select your film and your character. “

“Your superpower wasn’t great enough to join any superhero squads, but you still love her. Describe your power and invent a story in which it saves the day. ”

“You can create a new national holiday! What date does it fall, what is it called and what does it celebrate? “

When Privacy concerns Not enough to dissuade you from using Amazon’s voice assistant, perhaps its ability to spread harmful, even lethal information will pull the plug on Alexa to unplug you.

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