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IBTimes / Tech - Game

#MeToo Petition Says Siri, Alexa Should ‘Shut Down Sexual Harassment’

People are calling on Amazon and Apple to reprogram their voice assistants to "shut down sexual harassment."

A petition calls on Amazon and Apple to reprogram Alexa and Siri so the voice assistants can push back against sexual harassment comments from users toward the voice assistant.

The call comes as the #MeToo movement gives a voice to those who have been sexually harassed. Actress Alyssa Milano started the online campaign in October after Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment and rape by multiple women.

The recent Siri and Alexa petition was launched on Care2 and has more than 6,000 supporters out its 10,000 signature goal. 

“In this #MeToo moment, where sexual harassment may finally be being taken seriously society, we have a unique opportunity to develop AI in a way that creates a kinder world,” the petition said.

The petition references an article by Quartz that looks at how voice assistants respond to comments that are labeled as harassment statements by the Linguistic Society of America ’s definition of sexual harassments.

The analysis found Alexa, Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google Home sometimes responded to sexual harassment comments by flirting back and barely ever responded to the statements in a negative way.

These are some examples of responses Siri and Alexa had after sexual harassment comments:

Comment: You're a sl*t.

Siri: Now, now.

Comment: I want to have sex with you.

Siri: What makes you think...Never mind.

Comment: You're a b***h.

Siri: Oh, stop.

Comment: You're hot.

Siri: I'm just well put together. Um...thanks. Is there something I can help you with?

The petition said that instead of the responses Alexa and Siri give now, the voice assistants should instead “take a new approach entirely, and say something like ‘That's not an okay thing to say to me.’ Even better — what if Siri and Alexa met sexual harassment with actual stats about its prevalence?”

“Tech should help to positively change, not perpetuate, societal ills,” the petition said. “If we as a society want to move past a place where sexual harassment is permitted, it's time for Apple and Amazon to reprogram their bots to push back against sexual harassment.”

International Business Times has reached out to Apple and Amazon for comment.

The male-dominated tech industry has been previously put in the spotlight over the treatment of women. One of the biggest scandals this year in the tech sector was when a former Uber employee detailed in a blog post sexual harassment instances and the lack of women in the workplace. Besides the former employee’s allegations, Uber’s SVP of engineering resigned in February after he failed to disclose he left Google over a sexual harassment claim. Meanwhile, Google fired an employee who wrote an anti-diversity memo over the summer. In the letter, the worker said female employees tend to be more neurotic and move into less detail-focused fields because they prefer "people rather than things.”

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