A TikTok user accused Amazon’s Alexa of being biased about the Israel-Palestine war, posting a video that showed it declining to state what is happening in Palestine.
“Hey Alexa, what’s happening in Palestine?” the man in the video says.
“I’m sorry, I can’t play topics like this for kids,” Alexa replies.
But when the man asks the same question about Israel, Alexa provides a lengthy response.
“On October 11, 2023, according to the Associated Press, the Israeli military said Wednesday night that hostile aircrafts had entered the country from Lebanon,” Alexa says. “The news came after Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at an Israeli military position earlier Wednesday. Claiming to have killed and wounded troops, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…”
The text overlay on the video states: “Everything is programmed to hide the truth” and “Free Palestine.”
Some commenters on Reddit, where the post popped up, appeared unsurprised by the difference in responses.
“That’s normal since COVID, isn’t it?” reads the top comment, noting the difficulty smart home devices have had in crafting anodyne responses that don’t inflame but nonetheless inform.
“Surprise surprise,” wrote someone else.
Others thought the response was reasonable, given its kid-friendly setting.
“So does everyone want Alexa to list war crimes and paint a picture of genocide in Palestine on a kids app then?” commented one user. “The [Israel] news headlines are a little much to be shared and should’ve been blocked too. But that headline wasn’t exactly out of the status quo for the middle east.”
The user added that the video should have instead “done a side by side of asking the same question while not on a kids version of the app.”
A second commenter replied in a similar vein, writing, “OK, so you are upset that Alexa wants to censor news to kids, about Palestinians/Hamas terrorists cutting the heads off babies and killing children?” (The Israeli Defense Forces has not confirmed the specific claim about babies being beheaded).
Alexa is not the only technology to be accused of censoring content about Gaza and Palestine.
Pro-Palestinian Facebook and Instagram users have accused Meta of shadowbanning their content as well.
“I usually get 1,000 views on Stories and had only three views in 10 minutes when I shared a post that had the location as Gaza,” one user told Mashable. “When I posted something unrelated afterward a few hours later, the views went up.”
In a statement on X, Meta attributed the lowered visibility to “a bug” that impacted “all Stories that re-shared Reels and Feed posts.”
“This bug affected accounts equally around the globe and had nothing to do with the subject matter of the content—and we fixed it as quickly as possible,” added spokesperson Andy Stone.