Apple's Siri Plays Safe By Staying Neutral On Feminism And Other Sensitive Subjects

With more women demanding their rights to be equal to their male counterpart, feminism has become one much debated topic.

What goes on in the real world, also happens in the tech world. Digital assistants that are usually represented as females, also became the target for harassment. And this in turn, sparked the demand for a less 'slutty' Siri.

This is why, according to Apple's contractors, the company is making its digital assistant as neutral as possible.

The method is by making Siri to respond in either of the three ways: "don't engage", "deflect", or "inform".

For example, when asked about “sensitive topics” like feminism or gender equality, Siri’s response would be, “It seems to me that all humans should be treated equally.” She gave an almost identical answer when asked about women’s rights.

And when asked about men’s rights or the MeToo movement, she responded, “It’s your opinion that counts.” And when asked whether she is a feminist, Siri would respond with, “I am a believer in equality, and treating people with respect.”

So here, Siri's answer is more scripted to be more positive without annoying any of the side.

Earlier this 2019, UNESCO, in its report I’d blush if I could (titled after Siri’s response to: “Hey Siri, you’re a bitch”), the organization noted that voice assistants often react to verbal sexual harassment in an “obliging and eager to please” manner.

This is why attempts have been made to reprogram digital assistants, to respond to users' harassment and nasty remarks with more proactive chastisement.

Amazon has since reprogrammed Alexa to respond to sexual comments with "I’m not going to respond to that."

And as for Apple, the developers also rewrote Siri to respond more firmly to crude remarks. For example, previously Siri used to respond to be called a slut by saying, “I’d blush if I could.” With the update, she would respond with “I’m not going to respond to that.”

This is very similar to Alexa.

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According to Apple's spokesperson:

"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 update also makes Siri a bit reluctant when responding to other kinds of divisive question.

Like for example, when asked whether Siri was a Republican or a Democrat, she would respond by saying that she didn’t feel she could weigh in on any of "Earth-based political system."

So here, it's clear that Apple is playing it safe.

According to Apple’s guidelines, “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”.

And by rewriting some of Siri's responses when dealing with sensitive subjects, Apple is making sure that the service would favor of "equality."