Apple Rewrote Siri to ‘Deflect’ Questions About Feminism, Me Too Movement

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Leaked internal papers from Apple detail an internal project to rewrite Siri on how it handles sensitive topics like feminism, #MeToo movement, and more.

The documents show that Apple wants Siri to engage in one of the three ways: “don’t engage,” “deflect,” and “inform.” As a part of the project, Siri’s responses to such controversial queries were explicitly rewritten to make sure it favored “equality” and to not use the word feminism even when directly asked about it. Appl

In explaining why the service should deflect questions about feminism, Apple’s guidelines explain that “Siri should be guarded when dealing with potentially controversial content”. When questions are directed at Siri, “they can be deflected … however, care must be taken here to be neutral”.

For those feminism-related questions where Siri does not reply with deflections about “treating humans equally”, the document suggests the best outcome should be neutrally presenting the “feminism” entry in Siri’s “knowledge graph”, which pulls information from Wikipedia and the iPhone’s dictionary.

“Are you a feminist?” once received generic responses such as “Sorry [user], I don’t really know”; now, the responses are specifically written for that query, but avoid a stance: “I believe that all voices are created equal and worth equal respect,” for instance, or “It seems to me that all humans should be treated equally.” The same responses are used for questions like “how do you feel about gender equality?”, “what’s your opinion about women’s rights?” and “why are you a feminist?”.

Apple has also rewritten similar Siri responses for other controversial topics like the MeToo movement.

Apple has already issued a statement regarding the report saying it wants Siri to offer factual responses instead of opinions.

“Siri is a digital assistant designed to help users get things done. The team works hard to ensure Siri responses are relevant to all customers. Our approach is to be factual with inclusive responses rather than offer opinions.”

The documents were leaked to The Guardian by a person who used to grade Siri and was upset by its ethical lapses. Apple’s Siri grading program had received heavy criticism a month ago after it was revealed that third-party contractors were listening to personal Siri recordings of users. The program was put on hold by Apple as it reviewed it after which it announced a series of privacy-focused changes to it.

The document also reveal that graders checked almost 7 million clips from iPads in 10 different regions.

The internal document also reveals some of the Siri upgrades that Apple is working on as a part of the iOS 13 update. Codenamed “Yukon,” Siri will gain support for Find My Friends, App Store, and ability to recognize songs on the Apple Watch. A number of other features that will make their way to Siri by fall 2021 include the ability to have back-and-forth conversations with Siri about health, machine translation, and “hardware support” for a new device.

[Via The Guardian]