It may not be Skynet levels bad, but earlier this week, Alexa gave a 10-year-old girl some potentially deadly advice.
In a tweet, the girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, explained what happened. “We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier. Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.”
When the 10-year-old asked Alexa for a “challenge,” it’s safe to say she didn’t get what she expected. “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” Alexa responded to the query.
The challenge, known as the “penny challenge”, made the rounds on TikTok last year. When Alexa suggested the dangerous activity, the smart speaker was citing an article it “found on the web”—a community website called ourcommunity.com.
“The challenge is simple,” read the article according to reporting by HuffPost. “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs. The resulting sparks are supposed to be cool enough to win you instant internet fame. (Obviously, do NOT attempt this!)”
The article appears to have since been deleted from the Ourcommunity site.
In a statement to the BBC, Amazon said the issue was addressed quickly. “Customer trust is at the center of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers,” said Amazon in the statement.
“As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it.”
Thankfully, no one was hurt. Livdahl tweeted that her daughter is “too smart to do something like that.”
In our increasingly online world, keeping kids safe online can be tricky, especially in the world of AI speakers and the internet of things. The “internet talk” should happen early and often to remind kids how to protect themselves online. Kids should always be supervised when using the internet whenever possible. While that talk usually covers online games, social media, and smartphones, it should definitely also include smart speakers like Alexa and Google Assistant that we depend on to help our homes run smoothly.