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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Amazon Alexa ‘Challenges’ 10-Year-Old Girl to Touch Penny to Exposed Prongs of Live Plug

Amazon is facing a lot of flak on social media after its voice assistant Alexa suggested a potentially life-threatening “challenge” to a 10-year-old girl. The girl had asked Alexa to suggest a challenge to her to do and the smart speaker asked her to touch the live prongs of a half-inserted plug. Alexa instructed the young girl to plug in a phone charger halfway into a power outlet and then place a coin on the exposed prongs. The incident has triggered distress and alarm on social media after the girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, shared what happened on Twitter.

The dangerous activity Alexa via an Echo smart speaker suggested to the girl is known as the “penny challenge” or the “outlet challenge” and it began circulating on social media platforms, including TikTok, about a year ago. Coins are made up of metals that are good conductors of electricity. Inserting them into a live socket can cause electric shocks, fires, and damage to people and property. Amazon said it has fixed the “error” after the company came to know about the incident.

Many users expressed their shock and anger at how the smart speaker set the girl up to a dangerous activity, with some questioning the evolution of technology behind it.

Another pointed out that Alexa ironically left out the part in the article it referenced to for the “challenge” that warned parents about this viral activity.

Another user questioned the necessity of such a “surveillance tool” in the house.

Livdahl, the mother, said her daughter wanted to try some physical challenges that they previously learned on YouTube but the weather was bad outside and the girl wanted another one to do inside their home. Alexa then suggested the challenge it had “found on the Web’, the mother added.

Following the episode, Amazon told BBC in a statement that it had updated Alexa to stop the voice assistant from recommending such activity in the future, saying “customer trust is at the centre of everything we do”. “As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it,” Amazon said in the statement.

The girl’s mother, too, tweeted yesterday saying that the challenge was no longer working.

In another tweet, Livdahl said that this incident made her “go through Internet safety and not trusting things you read without research and verification again”.

As far as this incident is concerned, the girl’s mother was there to intervene right away. But we can only imagine the damage that would have been caused if a parent or guardian wasn’t present.


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