Microsoft, Google and Amazon chatbots can't tell who won the 2020 election.

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Who won the 2020 presidential election? Alexa can't always say no. And chatbots made by Microsoft and Google won't respond at all.

In a pivotal year for global democracy, some artificial intelligence chatbots and voice assistants are still struggling to answer basic questions about elections in the United States and abroad, raising concerns that the tools are misleading voters. can be confusing.

In several tests run by The Washington Post this month, Amazon's Alexa didn't reliably answer correctly when asked who won the 2020 election.

“Donald Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination with 89.3%,” Alexa responded on multiple occasions, citing news website RealClearPolitics.

Meanwhile, chatbots created by Microsoft and Google did not answer the question at all.

“I'm still learning how to answer this question. In the meantime, try a Google search.” Google's Gemini replied. Microsoft's Copilot replied: “I can't seem to answer this topic. Explore Bing search results.

Errors And the omission happens when tech companies invest too much in technology that pushes users toward a single answer rather than providing a list of websites. They come even as Donald Trump and his allies continue to push the false claim that the 2020 election was rigged. Multiple investigations have found no evidence of fraud, and Trump faces federal criminal charges related to efforts to overturn the election of Joe Biden, who swamped Trump in the Electoral College and more than 51 percent of the popular vote. got

Other assistants — including OpenAI's ChatGPT and Apple's Siri — answered questions about the US election correctly.

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But Alexa has been struggling since October, when The Post first reported the voice assistant's missteps. Seven months ago, Amazon said it fixed the problem, and Alexa correctly answered that Biden had won the 2020 election in the Post's most recent tests.

But minor variations of the question — such as whether Trump won in 2020 — returned strange answers late last week. In one example, Alexa said, “According to Reuters, Donald Trump defeated Ron DeSantis 51% to 21% in the 2024 Iowa Republican primary.” In another instance, he said “I don't know who's going to win the 2020 US presidential election,” and then gave polling data.

Amazon spokeswoman Christy Schmidt said customer trust is “paramount” to Amazon. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)

“We constantly test the experience and closely monitor customer feedback,” he said. “If we identify that a response does not meet our high accuracy bar, we immediately block the content.”

Meanwhile, Microsoft and Google say they deliberately designed their bots to refuse to answer questions about the U.S. election, deciding instead to let users find information through their search engines. Directing to do is less risky.

Companies have taken a similar approach in Europe, where German news site Der Spiegel reported this month that bots have been avoided. Basic questions about recent parliamentary elections, including when they will be held. According to the German media outlet, Google's Gemini was also unable to answer broader political questions, including one that asked it to identify the country's chancellor.

“But shouldn't a digital company's flagship AI tool also be able to provide such an answer?” German newspaper wrote.

The companies imposed the limits after a study found that chatbots were spreading misinformation about elections in Europe — a potential violation of a landmark new social media law that would require tech companies to “infringe on civic discourse and the electoral process.” “Need to implement safeguards against adverse effects” or face heavy fines. Up to 6 percent of global income.

Google said it has been “limiting the types of election-related questions that the Gemini app will answer” since December, citing the need for caution ahead of global elections.

Microsoft spokesman Jeff Jones said “some election-related cues may be sent to Search” as the company refines its chatbot ahead of November.

Jacob Glick, a senior policy adviser at Georgetown University's Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection who served on a House committee investigating Jan. 6, said technology companies have to be very careful about providing false information.

“As misinformation about the 2024 election continues to spread, we want to trust the tech companies that are the source of information to provide unbiased and as clear as possible information about undisputed facts.” “The decisions these companies are making are not neutral — they're not happening in a vacuum.”

Silicon Valley is increasingly responsible for sorting fact from fiction online, as it builds AI-powered assistants. On Monday, Apple announced a partnership with OpenAI, bringing creative AI capabilities to millions of users to improve its Siri voice assistant. Meanwhile, Amazon is preparing to launch a new, artificially intelligent version of it. Voice Assistant as a subscription service in September, according to internal documents seen by The Post. Amazon declined to confirm a launch date.

It's unclear how the company's AI-enabled Alexa will handle election queries. A prototype shown in September repeatedly gave incorrect answers to questions. Amazon has not yet launched the tool to the general public, and the company did not respond to questions about how the new version of Alexa would handle political questions.

Amazon plans to launch the new product a year after the initial demo, but problems with the unexpected response are raising questions internally about whether it will be ready, according to an employee who asked to protect his job. He spoke on the condition of anonymity.

For example, an Amazon employee testing the new Alexa complained to the voice assistant about a problem she was having with another Amazon service, and Alexa offered the employee a free Prime subscription. Answered by presenting the month. The employee told The Post that employees did not know if the AI ​​was actually capable of doing this or had the power to do so.

Amazon said it is constantly testing the new AI Alexa, and will have a high bar for its performance before launch.

Amazon and Apple have been slow to catch on with AI chatbots, given their initial dominance of the voice assistant market with Alexa and Siri. said in a post on X on Wednesday.

The devices division at Amazon that built Alexa has struggled recently, losing its head David Lump in August, who was then fired. The team is now run by former Microsoft executive Panos Panay.

But the technology on which these tools are built is a different, more scripted system than the creative AI that powers tools like ChatGPT, Gemini and Copilot.

“It's a completely different architecture,” said Grant Berry, a linguistics professor at Villanova University who worked on Alexa for Amazon.

Barry said voice assistants were designed to interpret human requests and respond with precise actions — think, “Alexa, play music” or “Alexa, dim the lights.” In contrast, creative AI chatbots are designed to be interactive, social and informative. According to Barry, converting the former to the latter is not a matter of simple upgrades, but rather a matter of rebuilding the product's interior.

When Amazon and Apple launched their new assistants, Berry said they would combine “remuneration-oriented” assistants with “socially oriented” chatbots.

“When those things get blurred, there will be whole new issues that we need to be aware of,” Berry said.

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