The BBC has reported that Amazon has reprogrammed its Alexa voice assistant following the uproar over its challenge to a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin on the prong of a half-inserted electrical plug.
“Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs,” the smart speaker said after the girl, who was playing with her family, asked for a “challenge to do.”
The horrified mother of the girl, Kristin Livdahl, took to Twitter to narrate the event.
“We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier,” she tweeted.
“Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one (another challenge),” she wrote. It was then that the Alexa — in the Echo speaker they have — suggested taking on a challenge it found on the Internet.
The challenge that Alexa proposed has been circulating since last year on social media websites and on the popular short-video platform TikTok.
A person undertaking the challenge may get electrocuted fatally as metals coins conduct electricity.
“I know you can lose fingers, hands, arms,” a fire chief in Carlisle told The Press newspaper in Yorkshire in 2020. “The outcome from this is that someone will get seriously hurt.”
“The outcome from this is that someone will get seriously hurt,” he added.
Other fire authorities in the United States have sounded off against the challenge.
Amazon, the giant tech company behind Alexa, reached to BBC to say that it has updated the program to prevent if from recommending such dangerous activities in the future.
“Customer trust is at the center of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers,” said Amazon in a statement.
“As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it,” it added.