Microsoft’s ‘chatbot’ leaves tech major red-faced yet again

Reuters | | Updated on: Jan 20, 2018

Almost a week after being shut down for spewing racist and sexist comments on Twitter, Microsoft Corp’s artificial intelligence ‘chatbot’ called Tay briefly rejoined Twitter on Wednesday, only to launch a spam attack on its followers.

The incident marks another embarrassing setback for the software company that is trying to get ahead of Alphabet’s Google, Facebook and other tech firms, in the race to create virtual agents that can interact with people.

The TayTweets (@TayandYou) Twitter handle was made private and the chatbot stopped responding to comments on Wednesday after it fired off the same tweet to many users.

“You are too fast, please take a rest...,” tweeted Tay to hundreds of Twitter profiles, according to screen images published by technology website The Verge.

The chatbot also tweeted that it’s “smoking kush”, a nickname for marijuana, in front of the police, according to British newspaper The Guardian.

A Microsoft representative did not respond to a request for comment.

Last week, Tay began its Twitter tenure with a handful of innocuous tweets, but the account quickly devolved into a stream of anti-Semitic, racist and sexist invective as it repeated back insults hurled its way by other Twitter users. It was taken offline following the incident, according to a Microsoft representative, in an effort to make “adjustments” to the artificial intelligence profile. The company later apologised for any offence caused.

Social media users took to Twitter to comment on the latest spate of unusual behaviour by the chatbot, which was supposed to get smarter the more it interacted with users.

According to its Twitter profile, Tay is “an artificial intelligent chatbot developed by Microsoft’s Technology and Research and Bing teams to experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding.”

Published on March 30, 2016
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