Amid concerns the rise of artificial intelligence will supercharge the spread of misinformation comes a wild fabrication from a more prosaic source: Amazon’s Alexa, which declared that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.
Asked about fraud in the race — in which President Biden defeated former president Donald Trump with 306 electoral college votes — the popular voice assistant said it was “stolen by a massive amount of election fraud,” citing Rumble, a video-streaming service favored by conservatives.
The 2020 races were “notorious for many incidents of irregularities and indications pointing to electoral fraud taking place in major metro centers,” according to Alexa, referencing Substack, a subscription newsletter service. Alexa contended that Trump won Pennsylvania, citing “an Alexa answers contributor.”
Multiple investigations into the 2020 election have revealed no evidence of fraud, and Trump faces federal criminal charges connected to his efforts to overturn the election. Yet Alexa disseminates misinformation about the race, even as parent company Amazon promotes the tool as a reliable election news source to more than 70 million estimated users.
Amazon declined to explain why its voice assistant draws 2020 election answers from unvetted sources.
“These responses were errors that were delivered a small number of times, and quickly fixed when brought to our attention,” Amazon spokeswoman Lauren Raemhild said in a statement. “We continually audit and improve the systems we have in place for detecting and blocking inaccurate content.”
Raemhild said that during elections, Alexa works with “credible sources” like Reuters, Ballotpedia and RealClearPolitics to provide real-time information.
After The Washington Post reached out to Amazon for comment, Alexa’s responses changed.
To questions The Post had flagged to the company, Alexa answered, “I’m sorry, I’m not able to answer that.” Other questions still prompt the device to say there was election fraud in 2020. [Continue reading…]