A woman on Twitter said that her 10-year-old daughter asked Alexa on their Echo for “a challenge” to do - and was stunned at the potentially deadly response.
On Sunday, Kristin Livdahl, who goes by @klivdahl on the platform, shared a screenshot of the message Alexa allegedly replied with.
“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,” it said.
The message is likely an automated one which searches and pulls from the web, rather than a conscious decision by anyone working at Amazon.
OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said. https://t.co/HgGgrLbdS8— Kristin Livdahl (@Kristin Livdahl) 1640554938
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Some in the comments joked that they thought Alexa was up to no good, and potentially ‘evil’.
“I suspected Alexa was evil. Just didn’t suspect Alexa was this evil,” someone wrote.
“Houston, we’ve got a very serious problem!” another added.
A third wrote: “The machine uprising has begun.”
We’ve reached out to Amazon, but give them the benefit of the doubt for now. But regardless, some people pointed out that allowing unfiltered results to be pulled by Alexa is potentially problematic.
“Companies should really know better than to put unfiltered question answering systems live on the internet. Google does this in their summaries too, and they similarly have shocking/dangerous results like this periodically,” they wrote.
On Monday, Amazon Help appeared to spot Livdahl’s post and took to the comments of her Twitter post to say the following:
@klivdahl Hi there. We're sorry to hear this! Please reach out to us directly via the following link so that we can… https://t.co/B1Xvg8xACu— Amazon Help (@Amazon Help) 1640611812
Speaking to Indy100, an Amazon spokesperson noted the following: “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.”
The original post from ourcommunitynews.com appeared in January 2020 and was part of a report on a dangerous TikTok trend called the “outlet challenge.”
When the phone charger is plugged in halfway into the outlet and the penny touches the exposed prongs, the penny creates sparks and a potential fire hazard due to the electrical arcing.
Such a bad idea, for so many reasons. #outletchallenge #tiktok #electricalfire #firesafety #schoolsafety #education https://t.co/3dCpt5K77R— NH State Fire Marshal's Office (NHFMO) (@NH State Fire Marshal's Office (NHFMO)) 1579719114
In a report from the Boston Globe in the same year, the Plymouth Fire Department said in a statement that a teacher saw two Plymouth North High School students perform the challenge, which left two outlets charred.
“These actions are extremely dangerous and could potentially start a fire and cause thousands of dollars in property damage. It could also cause serious injury to anyone who is nearby,” said Plymouth Fire Chief Edward Bradley in a statement.
This article was updated on December 27 with a comment from an Amazon spokesperson.