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For the most part, teams programmed their bots to search the internet for material.They could retrieve news articles found in The Washington Post, the newspaper that Bezos privately owns, through a licensing deal that gave them access.
Amazon declined to discuss specific Alexa blunders reported by Reuters, but stressed its ongoing work to protect customers from offensive content.
Amazon customers have also given the bots better ratings this year than last, the company said.
But Alexa’s gaffes are alienating others, and Bezos on occasion has ordered staff to shut down a bot, three people familiar with the matter said.
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Millions of users of Amazon’s Echo speakers have grown accustomed to the soothing strains of Alexa, the human-sounding virtual assistant that can tell them the weather, order takeout and handle other basic tasks in response to a voice command.
So a customer was shocked last year when Alexa blurted out: “Kill your foster parents.” Alexa has also chatted with users about sex acts. And this summer, a hack Amazon traced back to China may have exposed some customers’ data, according to five people familiar with the events. The episodes, previously unreported, arise from Inc’s strategy to make Alexa a better communicator.
Teams vie for the $500,000 first prize by creating talking computer systems known as chatbots that allow Alexa to attempt more sophisticated discussions with people.