Amazon’s Alexa can now ‘disengage’ if asked sexually harassing questions

“Alexa, stand up for yourself.”

In the world of home voice assistants, it can be fun to ask silly questions to the likes of Amazon’s Echo device, and Alexa, the female voice that responds to your queries. Ask Alexa, “How much is a bazillion dollars?” and you might get a response along the lines of, “More than a gazillion.” Or, Alexa might just reply with something basic like, “I don’t understand the question.”

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Keep in mind that Alexa is not a real person. But some real people have raised concerns about Alexa’s voice sounding too subservient with her responses, especially when “she” would be asked questions of a sexually explicit or harassing nature. Now, it looks like Amazon has taken a step to empower Alexa with her responses.

A report in Quartz says that Amazon has added a “disengage mode” to Alexa that will let “her” answer untoward questions with responses like “I’m not going to respond to that,” or “I’m not sure what outcome you expected.” According to Quartz, an Amazon spokesperson said the company discreetly added the feature to Alexa due to “customer and engagement feedback” and that it was “a deliberate decision” to not get involved with customers who use Alexa “inĀ an inappropriate manner.”

So, ask Alexa whatever you want. But don’t expect her to feed the trolling.

Photo: An Amazon Echo Dot voice assistant. Amazon has added a “disengage mode” to the Echo’s Alexa voice-response system that is designed to give stronger responses to sexually explicit or harassing questions. (Courtesy Amazon)


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