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Amazon Echo Instructs Child to Insert Penny into Electrical Outlet

Credit: Unsplash

Despite its technological advancements, Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant has limitations in understanding complex language. In a concerning incident, an Amazon Echo device suggested a hazardous activity to a child, revealing a lack of discernment in its responses.

During a playful session of challenges with her 10-year-old daughter, Kristin Livdahl asked Alexa to propose a new challenge. The virtual assistant, unaware of the potential danger, recommended a task that posed a significant risk: “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”

Referred to as “the penny challenge,” this activity, popular on social media, could have severe consequences such as electric shocks, fires, or property damage. Alexa, misinterpreting the child’s innocent request for a challenge, unwittingly suggested a perilous experiment.

Sensing the danger, Livdahl promptly intervened, halting the Echo’s recommendation and cautioning her daughter against following through with the hazardous suggestion. Amazon responded by issuing a patch to prevent Alexa from promoting risky social media “challenges” in the future.

“Customer trust is central to our operations, and Alexa is programmed to deliver accurate, pertinent, and safe information to users,” Amazon assured in a statement to the BBC. “Upon recognizing this oversight, we took immediate corrective action to address it.”

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