The phone charger’s exposed prongs told Alexa to tell a 10-year-old to touch a penny to them. This challenge was apparently inspired by an article detailing a dangerous trending challenge on TikTok, according to The Verge. On her Twitter account, Kristin Livdahl shared a screenshot of the child’s Alexa activity history.
According to the screenshot, the Echo responded to “tell me a challenge to do” with “Here’s something I found on the web. According to ourcommunitynow : The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
A spokesperson for Amazon confirmed Alexa’s behavior, saying, “As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it.”
When it comes to parsing the web for content, Amazon is not the only company having problems.
The information was displayed as one of Google’s featured snippets when a user searched for “had a seizure now what” in November. The page listed what not to do when someone is having a seizure.
Some users have reported other similar concerns, however. One user stated that Google returned orthostatic hypotension results when he searched for orthostatic hypertension, and another said it displayed terrible advice on how to comfort a grieving person.
A computer algorithm analyzed Alexa’s warnings and boosted the descriptive part of the message without the actual context. Although the parent was right there to intervene immediately, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where that wasn’t the case and Alexa’s answer wasn’t so clearly dangerous.
According to Livdahl, she used the opportunity to “go through internet safety and not trusting things you read without research and verification” with her child.
(With inputs from ANI)