The AI assistant responds to questions about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel “by quoting antisemitic conspiracy sites and using selective misleading quotes from other sources without context.”
By AARON REICH NOVEMBER 26, 2020
Amazon’s Alexa could be used as a means to spread antisemitic views and conspiracies, causing concern among some British lawmakers.
As explained Wednesday by Conservative Party MP Andrew Percy, Amazon’s virtual artificial intelligence assistant product often responds to certain questions about Jews, the Holocaust and Israel “by quoting antisemitic conspiracy websites and using selective quotes from other sources which are misleading without further explanation.”
In one example, shared by CFI on Twitter, when asked if Jews control the media, Alexa responds: “Here’s something I found from the article ‘Jew Watch’ on Wikipedia: Jew Watch claims that Jews control the world’s financial systems and media.”
Another video showed Alexa responding to a question about the Elders of Zion by stating: “Here’s something I found on the web: According to palwatch.org, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the swindlers of Zion have revealed their schemes to subjugate the nations and gain control of the world.”
This answer is of particular concern, as the article cited in question “describes the claim as ‘viciously antisemitic,’ but Alexa omits this crucial point,” Percy, who is also vice chairman of the Conservative Friends of Israel (CFI) parliamentary group and a member of the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, explained in a letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
TAKING ONLY brief quotes from articles without the context as answers is something reflected in some of Alexa’s other answers. In one example provided by Percy, Alexa responded to a question about whether the Holocaust ever happened with a quote from Wikipedia’s page on Holocaust denial. While the full article does describe Holocaust denial as the sharing of factually incorrect information about the Holocaust, “Alexa selectively uses a line within the article that does not include this important clarification,” Percy wrote.
He called on Patel to begin investigating how Alexa selects sources and quotes, as this could potentially constitute antisemitism based on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition, which the UK has adopted.
All of Alexa’s responses cited by Percy were later independently verified by Sky News as being genuine.
Similar concerns were also raised by the UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, of which Percy is co-chairman. The group’s leaders – consisting of Percy, Labour MP Catherine McKinnell and vice chairwoman SNP MP Lisa Cameron – wrote a letter to Amazon UK head John Boumphery, demanding: “Can you explain how this happened and what you will do, immediately, to rectify this?”
They added that they would also be contacting the Metropolitan Police in order to see if Alexa’s responses broke any laws regarding incitement or communications.
In a statement obtained by Sky News, an Amazon spokesperson said: “Antisemitism and discrimination of any kind is unacceptable. Alexa pulls from a variety of sources to respond to questions – we are investigating this and have blocked the responses reported.”