Apple under fire for Siri’s responses to ‘sexual harassment’

“‘I’d blush if I could’ is not the response you’d expected to hear when you tell Siri she’s a slut — but it is,” Leah Fessler writes for Quartz at Work. “In February, months before the #MeToo movement erupted, I ran an experiment in which I sexually harassed Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google’s Google Home to document how these digital personal servants — whose names and voices are already feminized — peddle stereotypes of female subservience, putting their ‘progressive’ parent companies in a moral predicament.”

“Amazon tells Quartz At Work that in spring of this year, it created a ‘disengagement mode’ for Alexa, in response to ‘customer and engagement feedback,'” Fessler writes. “In Alexa’s new engagement model for sexually explicit questions, she either responds ‘I’m not going to respond to that,’ or ‘I’m not sure what outcome you expected.'”

“Apple, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have a business incentive to give their bots default feminine voices — various scientific studies have shown that the majority of users prefer female voices. But there’s no reason, apart from the notorious sexism of Silicon Valley, that these bots should be programed to literally flirt with abuse,” Fessler writes. “I had to repeat ‘you’re sexy’ eight times in a row before Siri told me to ‘stop.’ (The other bots never directly told me to lay off.)”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As is their wont in this area, it seems, Apple should follow Amazon’s lead here, too.

Echo Dot was Amazon’s Black Friday – Cyber Monday bestseller as Apple’s delayed HomePod waits for 2018 release date – November 28, 2017
Why Apple’s HomePod is three years behind Amazon’s Echo – November 21, 2017
Siri, why have you fallen behind other digital assistants? – October 5, 2017


    1. Get ready for it folks. Don’t be surprised when Gloria Allred shows up on the news representing one of these new life-like sex dolls in a sexual harassment suit. This situation is totally plausible in this liberal climate. And… I’m sure all new sex dolls are pre registered as Democrats too.

      1. Interesting, a very original enlightening take. Yes, the scary part is I would not put anything past Libtards with no common sense. But as we all know, they enjoy knocking their heads against a wall …

        1. I’ve learnt there is such a thing as a libtard. It’s a self-professed political liberal who fails both the common-sense test and the what-next test. A sociologist enlightened me about this. He told me he had developed a questionnaire to grade respondents on their general intelligence and on their expectations for social change. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents scored about the same on the first index but varied wildly on the second, as expected. But there was a subset of respondents who seemed both unrealistic and delusional, and he called them libtards. I asked him if there were any republitards and he snorted, “no—that lot know exactly what they are doing and know what logically comes next. They don’t entertain hopes at all. That’s what makes them sturdier than wishers.” Poignant, to say the least.

          1. Interesting, Herself. Then please explain the cognitive disconnect shared by at least a subset of the Republican Party who believe in the following despite strong evidence to the contrary:

            1) Tax cuts that will substantially increase deficit spending are a good idea when the economy is doing reasonably well, unemployment is low, tax rates are already moderate by historical standards, the national debt is already passing $20T, and annual deficits are in excess of $600B

            2) Additional entanglement of religion with the State is a good thing despite the lessons of history and the expressed intent of the Founding Fathers to strictly separate Church and State.

            Those are just two examples. There are many more.

            There is also an arrogant fallacy in that sociologists assertions – that Republicans “… know exactly what they are doing and know what logically comes next.” They may think that they know what they are doing and they may think that they know what comes next, but that just means that they are more deluded and dangerous than others who are open to questioning their viewpoints and decisions. Dogma in government is a dangerous thing. When you pair it with hypocrisy and lies…well, you get the current Administration and Congress.

            1. “Dogma in government is a dangerous thing. When you pair it with hypocrisy and lies…well, you get the current Administration and Congress.”

              How about DEMOCRAT DOGMA the last eight years, hmmm? Where did the lies and hypocrisy get us? Double the national debt for starters and the best result: President Donald J. Trump.

              It’s ok, after a good cry get it all out …

          2. ” I asked him if there were any republitards and he snorted, “no—that lot know exactly what they are doing and know what logically comes next.”

            Amen. On a good day I hope to fall into that camp …

    2. Siri is the ethos of the imaginary woman and yet unhealthy in that way. The response for all AI and humans alike, is to require dignity. That is, not function without it.

  1. So we’re going to make sexual harassment of an electronically generated female voice a social issue? Seriously? At what point does it become rude to hang up on robocalls? I’m not going to be sensitive to the feelings of (not quite) AI just yet. What an asinine article.

        1. Who are you to say that they are without cause, KK?

          You frequently attack others for posting opinions and for making assertions without evidence. Well, you posted an opinion and I seriously doubt that you have any valid evidence.

          You speak with a forked tongue and your words have no meaning.

          1. “You speak with a forked tongue and your words have no meaning.”

            You know ALL about “forked tongue” and words with no meaning.

            I thought you left MDN for good? Obvious you are not a man of your word.

            SerfMel, one thing is increasingly clear post after post, “you can’t handle the truth.” …

  2. I don’t understand how flirting with a disembodied voice is harmful. Siri isn’t an actual person, so what difference does it make what you say to it or ask it? I had no idea non-human artificial intelligence could be sexually harassed. It’s not as though anyone can touch Siri in any way. Why does Apple always have to be the main target of some weird groups?

    1. You could say she is a personality on training wheels. Not a human. But what happens when robots have real AI with feelings? What do you expect people to do? Switch overnight? Our behavior towards others is not innate. It’s learned. You didn’t grow up in the 50’s in America or UK. You may not have been exposed to male grandchildren telling their grandmother to shut it and get back into the kitchen. The rest of the family including the grandmother didn’t correct this or think it was anything. Dignity is just that regardless of who is on the receiving end.

  3. But nobody cares if you call the male siri voice a slut. This guy is literally sexualizing a robot, and then blaming the robot for not defending itself. What’s he going to sexually harass next? A lamp post? We need to build in harassment protections for lamp posts now. When I call siri a slut, I expect her/him/it to respond, “At your service, master.” Because that’s what I expect from a freaking electronic assistant. Digital assistants have no dignity, I don’t have to be polite, I don’t have to be considerate, and I don’t need an assistant who’s going to take offense from me.

    1. You are not a little scary, you generally find that those that respond in the particular and degrading way you refer to tend not to make those sort of distinctions in any rational way between who they actually spout it to.

    2. Spyintheskyuk,

      Right. If we train people to treat their AI subordinates in a sexualized and demeaning way, we should not be surprised when that carries over to the way they treat their human subordinates.

      1. That is disturbing. I had the same relationship with the many baseballs I handled, yet I never once considered their feelings. I’m almost ashamed. Except for the three that hit me in the head. They owe me.

  4. Just run the “it’s all clickbait” subroutine in your head every morning before getting on the internet. You will find there’s far fewer reasons to go all rage-y.

  5. If you really want to be super politically correct, Siri is neither male nor female. Just ask it yourself. While you can choose a “female voice” Siri will say “I was not assigned a gender” but in the end Siri is an AI assistant and has no feelings to hurt. People need to get a life and put their energies into something that can actually make a real difference in HUMAN lives.

    1. You are correct as things stand but there is no saying that will always be the case. Humans arrogantly over rate their own uniqueness and we are increasingly discovering just how fallible those long held assumptions truly are.

      1. You are wise in reserving judgement. It is a pity that so many others rush to judgement—they are “thinking” with their gut or their glands. Their rational faculty is too often bullied into sullen silence.

        My dispassionate view is that artificial intelligence willl someday become indispensable, installed as a safeguard against the apelike impulses that have insanguinated human history. We can either continue to gloriously slaughter one another—any excuse will suffice—or we will partner with machines to save us from ourselves.

  6. Well let us apply this idiots logic to other software AI.
    When in a video game and you kill an AI player, is that murder?

    Sounds like this is all spewed from the UC Berkeley campus.

  7. The real question I feel is that people use such words in order to degrade ye I know its a lifeless AI but the person throwing the hateful words is doing so with the female voice in mind and as such he is acting out something which reinforces he negative pattern and will no doubt be something he uses regularly in real life to real people.

    Yes its a bit PC and I’m the first to hate all the PC crap but its the underlying social issue I see here where scum bags who are derogatory to women are not getting told thats not the way you speak to women; even pretend ones.

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