Google came under fire recently after its smart home device failed to answer the simple question, “Who is Jesus?” Christian Google Home owners were shocked when the Google Home smart speaker adequately answered questions about other religious figures such as Muhammad, Budah and Satan.
If you ask competitor device Amazon Echo the identical question, “Alexa” will respond confidently with information from Wikipedia: “Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, is a religious figure.” However, ask Google Home, and you’ll get nothing of substance. “I’m not sure how to help you with that,” the device barks back.
“It’s kinda scary. It’s almost like Google has taken Jesus and God out of smart audio,” Tennessee resident David Sams told WJLA.
“They took prayer out of schools, they think just taking Jesus out of everything is politically correct these days and I think that’s the stem of a lot of our problems,” another resident, Martin Collins said. Collins added that if Google has “some kind of wizard making these decisions” they should correct the error as quickly as possible.
This has caused such a headache for Google that programmers have now developed a blanket response to all questions related to religious figures: “Religion can be complicated, and I am still learning.”
“The reason the Google Assistant didn’t respond with information about ‘Who is Jesus’ or ‘Who is Jesus Christ’ wasn’t out of disrespect but instead to ensure respect,” tweeted Google’s public search liaison account. “Some of the Assistant’s spoken responses come from the web, and for certain topics, this content can be more vulnerable to vandalism and spam.”
Some have noticed the Google Assistant wouldn’t respond for “Who is Jesus.” This wasn’t out of disrespect but to ensure respect. Some Assistant replies come from the web. It might not reply in cases where web content is more vulnerable to vandalism & spam. Our full statement: pic.twitter.com/7iu1D8FEEK
— Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) January 26, 2018
Google’s smart technology relies on so-called “featured snippets” — the pullout information it suggests to you when you are searching something on the web. Obviously, broadcasting this information has a few risks. Indeed, inaccurate and offensive information can easily find its way into featured snippets, which has led Google’s smart products to repeat extremely inflammatory comments.
BBC News’ technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones once asked the device on Sunday whether Obama was planning a coup d’état. The device responded that the former President was “planning a Communist coup d’etat at the end of his term,” and was “in bed with the Communist Chinese.”
Other videos have surfaced of shocking remarks coming out of the Google devices.
"Yes, republicans = nazis" pic.twitter.com/7HVQjyjbEq
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) March 5, 2017
“Featured Snippets in Search provide an automatic and algorithmic match to a given search query, and the content comes from third-party sites. Unfortunately, there are instances when we feature a site with inappropriate or misleading content,” Google said in a statement to Quartz. “When we are alerted to a Featured Snippet that violates our policies, we work quickly to remove them, which we have done in this instance. We apologize for any offense this may have caused.”
Another user demonstrated how the Google assistant on his phone happily answered questions such as “Who is Allah?” and “Who is Brahman?” but when it came to “Who is Jesus?” the assistant simply replied: “Here are some results from the web.”
The top result? The Jehovah’s Witnesses website.
OK Google – Who is Jesus Christ? https://t.co/bt152L6Rkn
— anetia woodsmall (@AnetiaWoodsmall) January 26, 2018