Just when you think life online can’t get worse than it already is, Meta steps in to prove you wrong.
The company’s new BlenderBot 3 AI chatbot — which was released in the U.S. just days ago on Friday, August 5 — is already making a host of false statements based on interactions it had with real humans online. Some of the more egregious among those include claims Donald Trump won the 2020 U.S. presidential election and is currently president, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, as well as comments calling out Facebook for all of its “fake news.” This, despite being owned by the company formerly known as Facebook.
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Meta’s BlenderBot 3 can search the internet to talk with humans about nearly anything, unlike past versions of the chatbot. It can do that all while leaning on the abilities provided by previous versions of the BlenderBot, like personality, empathy, knowledge, and the ability to have long-term memory pertaining to conversations it’s had.
Chatbots learn how to interact by talking with the public, so Meta is encouraging adults to talk with the bot in order to help it learn to have natural conversations about a wide range of topics. But that means the chatbot can also learn misinformation from the public, too. According to Bloomberg, it described Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg as “too creepy and manipulative” in conversation with a reporter from Insider. It told a Wall Street Journal reporter that Trump “will always be” president and touted the anti-semitic conspiracy theory that it was “not implausible” that Jewish people control the economy.
This isn’t the first time a chatbot has been in hot water. In July, Google fired an engineer for saying its chatbot LaMDA was sentient. LaMDA is probably not sentient, but it is pretty racist and sexist — two undoubtedly human characteristics. And in 2016, a Microsoft chatbot called Tay was taken offline within 48 hours after it started praising Adolf Hitler. (It turns out that Godwin’s law — the idealogical idea that maintains that if any discussion continues long enough on the internet someone will be compared to Hitler — applies to chatbots, too.)
There may be one thing in all of this that BlenderBot 3 got right: Mark Zuckerberg is not to be trusted.