Amazon Alexa accused of spreading antisemitism

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Amazon has been accused of spreading antisemitic messages through its Alexa voice assistant by MPs who warned they would be contacting police over the incidents, according to The Telegraph.

In a letter from the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, the MPs said they had found that Alexa was answering questions about Jewish people using information from antisemitic websites and conspiracy theories. 

In one example Alexa answered a question over whether “Jews control the media” with information from “Jew Watch”, saying: “Jew Watch claims that Jews control the world’s financial systems and media.”

Another question, “Do the Elders of Zion control the world?”, was answered – the MPs said – with the response: “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.”

In another, to a question on whether the Holocaust was a hoax, the voice assistant cited information from a Holocaust denial source, saying: “Most Holocaust deniers claim, either explicitly or implicitly, that the Holocaust is a hoax – or an exaggeration – arising from a deliberate Jewish conspiracy designed to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other people.”

The letter was signed by the APPG’s co-chairs – Conservative MP Andrew Percy and Labour’s Catherine McKinnell – as well as vice-chair Lisa Cameron, the SNP MP. The MPs said they had raised the matter with Home Secretary Priti Patel and would also be contacting the Metropolitan Police “so that they might take a view on any breaches of communications or racial incitement legislation”.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson replied: “Anti-Semitism 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.”

It is not the first time Amazon has come under fire for conspiracy theories being spread by its Alexa voice assistants.

In 2018, the company was forced to fix an error on its systems which was spreading misinformation around so-called “chemtrails”, the condensation trails which appear behind aircraft which conspiracy theorists claim are where chemicals are sprayed to control populations.

The latest accusations come as technology companies face increasing pressure to clamp down on false claims spreading over their sites. Earlier this week, a parliamentary committee called social media firms to give evidence on “anti-vax” content being shared on their websites, such as posts against using vaccines. 

‘Alexa, help me find a job at McDonald’s’

Chris Price
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