Amazon’s hands free speaker Echo powered by the virtual assistant Alexa has come under fire for suggesting a fatal challenge to a 10-year-old. A US mother, Kristin Livdahl, claimed on Twitter that Echo recommended a deadly TikTok trend to her daughter who asked the device for a ‘challenge’. “OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said,” wrote Kristin on her tweet, attaching a screenshot of Alexa’s suggestion. “According to ourcommunitynow.com: The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs." The now viral tweet has over 15k likes. Ironically, the suggestion was taken by Alexa from a page that warned parents against children trying out the viral ‘penny challenge’.
Livdahl added that the mother and daughter were engaged in physical challenges like “laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier.” Due to bad weather, her daughter wanted one more activity. She said that her timely intervention helped avert a disaster. “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."
Enraged netizens debated over the cons of technology and children’s safety around electronic devices.
Question: Why does your 10 year old have unrestricted access to shady internet content? (Yes via Alexa. Why is that pandoras box just laying there, open to anyone including him)— Remo (@rem3_1415926) December 27, 2021
I simply don’t do anything with Amazon. And would never let an Alexa or Echo or similar be online in my house.I’m happy that nothing bad happened!
— Knud Jahnke (@KnudJahnke) December 27, 2021
Perhaps it’s a good time to rethink Why you let this surveillance Tool in your house in the first place 😬. No blame shifting, Amazon is responsible above all. But i really dont get Why people want to put these Devices in their homes.— Dav Dav (@zwitscherDav) December 28, 2021
It even started a mini tweet war between the plugs used in different countries.
As a Scotsman I just have to mention that your plugs are the same as practically every other EU country and do not have the advantages of the British plug.— santabb (@iloveheroinbb) December 27, 2021
Others attacked Amazon for the apparent lack of safety controls.
Why then in the love of all that is holy would an organization that should know better like @amazon sell a product that randomly selects content from the mess of the internet to use in conversation with any random person at any level of critical thinking ability?— Nick 🚰 says you should follow Alex Steffen (@adjectivalnoun) December 27, 2021
Hahahahah, NO. You need to escalate this issue internally IMMEDIATELY as a P1, because this is a threat to life and limb. You have all the info you need. Don’t wait for customers to do your job for you.— Shaun Ruigrok (@Shaun_R) December 27, 2021
There is literally no reason to have an “Alexa” in your house. This should tell you that if it wasn’t already obvious.— Norge Gorgeous (@GorgeousNorge) December 27, 2021
Few recounted their personal experiences with Alexa, which didn’t end well.
I bought my 7 year old an Amazon kids subscription with this cute tiger. He loved it, played adventures and animal workouts all day. Then asks before bed, “Alexa give me a Santa fact” and she starts telling him Santa is a myth in different countries. pic.twitter.com/mOqoychEi9— Steven Webster (@stevenjwebster) December 28, 2021
The lethal challenge started becoming popular about a year ago. Since metals conduct electricity, carrying out this challenge will lead to electrocution, fires and other serious injuries. A BBC report stated that Amazon responded by saying it had updated Alexa and rectified the error in order to avoid such mishaps in future.