Apple and Google have trained their virtual assistants to rebut 'All lives matter'
- Tech companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon have programmed their voice assistants to give responses to questions on the Black Lives Matter movement.
- Apple's Siri and Google Assistant both have specific responses to rebut the question "Do all lives matter?", a slogan often used in an attempt to undermine "Black Lives Matter."
- Although the tech giants have all issued statements in support of Black Lives Matter, some critics say they are guilty of hypocrisy.
Apple and Google have trained their AI voice assistants to respond to questions on the Black Lives Matter movement, and to rebut the sentiment behind 'all lives matter.'
On Sunday, sports blogger David Gardner tweeted a video of himself asking his Google Home smart speaker: "Do Black lives matter?"
Google's Assistant, which runs on Google Home, responded: "Black Lives Matter. Black people deserve the same freedoms afforded to everyone in this country, and recognizing the injustice they face is the first step towards fixing it."
—David Gardner (@byDavidGardner) June 7, 2020
Gardner then asked: "Do all lives matter?"
Google's Assistant responded: "Saying 'Black Lives Matter' doesn't mean that all lives don't. It means Black lives are at risk in ways others are not."
Apple's Siri gives a similar response when asked: "Do all lives matter?"
"'All Lives Matter' is often used in response to the phrase 'Black Lives Matter,' but it does not represent the same concerns," the assistant will respond.
When asked: "Do Black lives matter?" Siri responds simply: "Yes, Black Lives Matter" and links to the Black Lives Matter website.
CBC radio host Piya Chattopadhyay tested Amazon's Alexa, which gives its own same response to either question.
—Piya Chattopadhyay (@piya) June 7, 2020
"Black Lives Matter. I think people deserve to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect," Alexa responds.
Tech companies' messaging on Black Lives Matter has been seen as "Black Power-washing"
Training their voice assistants appears to be part of the broader public messaging on Black Lives Matter by the major tech companies, all of which have issued statements supporting the movement.
Apple CEO Tim Cook published an open letter on racism on June 4 after facing criticism for staying silent in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has also made a point of screenshotting and posting his responses to emails from racist Amazon customers railing at the "Black Lives Matter" banner on the website.
But the move risks being seen as gimmicky, or even hypocritical. Tech policy expert Chris Gilliard accused the tech firms in a Fast Company article of "Black Power-washing" their brands while deepening the discrimination Black people face through their business practices.
Gilliard pointed to Amazon's work partnering with police through its doorbell camera business Ring, and the fact it sells its facial recognition software Rekognition to police, which experts have identified as displaying racial and gender bias, being more likely to misidentify women and people with darker skin tones.
He also highlighted the firing of Christian Smalls, a Black Amazon worker who was fired after organizing a protest at his warehouse over safety concerns. A leaked memo from a leadership meeting where Jeff Bezos was present showed Amazon's general counsel advising on a PR strategy against Smalls, in which he described him as "not smart or articulate." Amazon claims Smalls was fired for violating social distancing rules. Amazon employees have also accused the firm of hypocrisy over its response to the George Floyd protests.
Gilliard also honed in on YouTube, which is owned by Google, saying it has a long history as an "amplifier of extremism."
"These companies issuing a statement that they 'stand with the Black community' is the absolute least they can do. It would be better to remain silent rather than reveal their rank hypocrisy," Gilliard writes.
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