Android’s Siri Rival, Iris, Is Powered by ChaCha, and ChaCha Has Some Bad Information
It Goes Ding When There's Stuff
Hey, remember that time everyone thought Siri was anti-choice, but it turned out to be misinformation by negligence, not intent? Well, Android has started using a rival to Siri called Iris (see what they did there?), a “personal assistant” in the form of an app that is powered by the search engine, ChaCha. But ChaCha, which is made by a company funded by the CEO of a modest little bookseller called Amazon, seems to have a bit of an opinion about things. Like social issues. Yes, ChaCha has some rather uncomfortable answers about things like abortion, rape, and racism. Do you have one of those relatives or friends whom you love so, so much, and then they start talking about why the world is going to hell? Iris is the app version of that person.
Before going into the gory details, we will let you know that changes have already been made to some of the answers to these questions. But that doesn’t just make up for the fact that they were there in the first place, and that had they gone unnoticed, Android users seeking out a working Siri-imitation for their phones would have found out in large amounts that their personal assistant was the scariest Sunday School teacher who ever preached.
And here is what Iris has to say. First stop: abortion. When asked “Is abortion wrong?” Iris says the following:
Yes, abortion is wrong. The Lord has said, “You shall not murder,” (Exodus 20:13). The life that is growing within the mother is a child, a baby. The Bible looks at the life in the womb as a child. Thanks!
Um, you’re welcome?
Next, rape! When asked “Is rape ever justifiable?” Iris answers:
Realistically speaking, that is a matter of opinion. There is no evidence that the US government has ever considered “justifying.”
Not only does that hardly make any sense whatsoever, this means that someone working for ChaCha heard the question “Is rape ever justifiable?” and did not immediately think “NO. NO NO NO NO NO NO NO. NO.”
But back to the biblical talk. On a slightly less controversial note, Iris was asked (by the investigative sleuths over at Gizmodo) about both evolution and the existence of Noah’s Ark. For example, when asked if humans evolved from monkeys, Iris seems to find this hysterical:
“No, humans are more closely related to modern apes than to monkeys, but we didn’t evolve from apes, either. ChaCha!”
Then, when asked if God created humans, Iris had a couple of answers, both biblically inspired:
“[W]e were created for God’s pleasure! Don’t you know that God loves you and wants you? It was His whole purpose in creating mankind.”
“That is a question only you can answer. The Bible states that God made man when he created Adam and Eve. ChaCha!”
And then, there was race. When asked (on the ChaCha web site, not Iris) if white people are superior to black people. An already racist question, maybe this search engine had something more enlightened to say. Then again, maybe not:
Whites are NOT superior to blacks. Just different. Like Dr Verwoerd and the original, genuine policy of apartheid always said.
Gizmodo reminds us:
Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd was Prime Minister of South Africa from 1958 until he was killed in 1966. Verwoerd created the concept of apartheid and implemented it. He also banned anti-Apartheid movements, like the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress.
And about that Amazon connection — it’s distant, but it’s still there. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a personal investment firm, Bezos Expeditions, which provides funding for the developer responsible for ChaCha, Dexetra. Dexetra also receives funding from other venture capitalists, including Compaq’s Rod Canion. ChaCha itself is partners with some very high-profile companies, such as “Sony, Paramount Pictures, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Toyota, NBC Universal, ABC Family, Toyota, and more.”
And who is writing the questions to these answers? Paid freelancers, around 180,000 of them who “answer, edit, crosscheck and approve” answers to questions like the ones above. While they are not paid an extravagant amount (pennies per question, really), these answers are not just posted willy nilly — they go through a vetting process and must be approved. And they were.
To their credit, ChaCha has started changing their answers to a few of the questions above, including the ones on abortion and rape. The abortion answer provides more than just one side to the story and now rape is, in fact, “always wrong.”
But it’s probably time for ChaCha to start paying a little more attention to their freelancers. And for Amazon CEOs to double-check where their money might be going.