An Amazon Alexa device gave a potentially deadly response when a 10-year-old asked for a challenge, the girl’s mother has claimed.
On Sunday, Kristin Livdahl took to Twitter and shared a screenshot of the message Alexa allegedly replied with after her bored daughter asked the Alexa to entertain her.
“OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said,” she wrote alongside the screenshot.
The grab showed the webpage apparently given as a result by the Amazon device. It read: “Here’s something I found on the web.
“The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
Prompted by a voice command, Alexa will scour the internet for web results based on your question.
But some people pointed out in response to Kristin that unfiltered results could be potentially dangerous.
“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,” one person wrote.
Others were more light hearted about the incident. “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.”
Luckily, Livdahl was able to intervene to keep her daughter safe. “I was right there and yelled, no, Alexa, no! like it was a dog. My daughter says she is too smart to do something like that anyway.”
The ‘challenge’ is known as the ‘outlet challenge,’ one of many bizarre and potentially dangerous challenges that originated on Tik Tok.
It encourages viewers to put a plug half way into a socket, leaving the prongs partially exposed before touching a coin against them. The potential for fire and harm is obvious.
“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 after two students were caught doing the challenge in a US school in January.
Speaking 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.”