An internal project to rewrite how Apple’s Siri voice assistant handles “sensitive topics” such as feminism and the #MeToo movement advised developers to respond in one of three ways: “don’t engage”, “deflect” and finally “inform”.
The project saw Siri’s responses explicitly rewritten to ensure that the service would say it was in favour of “equality”, but never say the word feminism – even when asked direct questions about the topic…
“Are you a feminist?” once received generic responses such as “Sorry [user], I don’t really know”; now, the responses are specifically written for that query, but avoid a stance: “I believe that all voices are created equal and worth equal respect,” for instance, or “It seems to me that all humans should be treated equally.” The same responses are used for questions like “how do you feel about gender equality?”, “what’s your opinion about women’s rights?” and “why are you a feminist?”.
A similar sensitivity rewrite occurred for topics related to the #MeToo movement, apparently triggered by criticism of Siri’s initial responses to sexual harassment. Once, when users called Siri a “slut”, the service responded: “I’d blush if I could.” Now, a much sterner reply is offered: “I won’t respond to that.”
In a statement, Apple said: “Siri is a digital assistant designed to help users get things done. The team works hard to ensure Siri responses are relevant to all customers. Our approach is to be factual with inclusive responses rather than offer opinions.”
MacDailyNews Take: Good. We’re sure Siri is being refined routinely and often, as it should be.