Apple made Siri deflect questions on feminism & #MeToo, leaked papers reveal
Apple made Siri deflect questions on feminism,
leaked papers reveal
Exclusive: voice assistant’s
responses were rewritten so it never says word ‘feminism’
Alex HernFri 6 Sep 2019 08.00 EDTLast modified on Fri 6 Sep 2019 11.45 EDT
An internal project to rewrite how Apple’s Siri voice assistant
handles “sensitive topics” such as feminism and the #MeToo movement advised
developers to respond in one of three ways: “don’t engage”, “deflect” and
The project saw Siri’s responses
explicitly rewritten to ensure that the service would say it was in favour of
“equality”, but never say the word feminism – even when asked direct questions
about the topic.
Last updated in June 2018, the
guidelines are part of a large tranche of internal documents leaked to the
Guardian by a former Siri “grader”, one of thousands of contracted workers who
were employed to check the voice assistant’s responses for accuracy until Apple ended the programme last month in
response to privacy concerns raised by the Guardian.
In explaining why the service should
deflect questions about feminism, Apple’s guidelines explain that “Siri should
be guarded when dealing with potentially controversial content”. When questions
are directed at Siri, “they can be deflected … however, care must be taken here
to be neutral”.
For those feminism-related questions
where Siri does not reply with deflections about “treating humans equally”, the
document suggests the best outcome should be neutrally presenting the
“feminism” entry in Siri’s “knowledge graph”, which pulls information from
Wikipedia and the iPhone’s dictionary.
Also included in the leaked
documents are a list of Siri upgrades aimed for release in as part of iOS 13,
code-named “Yukon”. The company will be bringing Siri support for Find My
Friends, the App Store, and song identification through its Shazam service to
the Apple Watch; it is aiming to enable “play this on that” requests, so that
users could, for instance, ask the service to “Play Taylor Swift on my
HomePod”; and the ability to speak message notifications out loud on AirPods.
They also contain a further list of
upgrades listed for release by “fall 2021”, including the ability to have a
back-and-forth conversation about health problems, built-in machine
translation, and “new hardware support” for a “new device”. Apple was spotted testing code for an augmented reality headset in
iOS 13. The code-name of the 2021 release is “Yukon +1”, suggesting the company
may be moving to a two-year release schedule.
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