A 10-year-old girl asked Alexa for a challenge, and the smart speaker suggested one that could have led to her getting electrocuted, which forced Amazon to jump in and fix the issue quickly.
A woman on Twitter (via Indy100) claimed that her daughter asked Amazon’s virtual assistant for a challenge, and it said, “Here’s something I found on the web. According to ourcommunitynow.com: The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
Thankfully, the young girl was smart enough to know this was a terrible idea, and she didn’t perform the challenge as instructed by Alexa.
Alexa spouting this challenge isn’t some malicious person at Amazon trying to get people to touch pennies to electrical plugs. Instead, it’s simply the virtual assistant turning to search results when it doesn’t have a programmed answer. Unfortunately, because the internet is filled with all kinds of dangerous things like this penny challenge, it’s easy for kids to interact with their smart speaker and stumble on results like this one.
For its part, Amazon removed the result as quickly as possible so other people wouldn’t be given the same challenge. In a statement to Indy100, an Amazon spokesperson said, “Customer trust is at the center of everything we do, and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers. As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it.”
Let this serve as a reminder that smart speakers and displays are gateways to the internet, and the information contained within them isn’t always curated by the companies that make them. As such, it’s smart to supervise your children while they use them. In the best-case scenario, they may get incorrect information. In the worst-case, they may end up being asked to electrocute themselves.