Earlier this week, a ten-year-old asked her Amazon Echo to give her a challenge to do. Alexa referenced a website and began to tell the child about a “simple” challenge that could have led to dangerous consequences.
On Sunday, December 26, Kristin Livdahl of Minnesota posted on Twitter, stating, “My 10-year-old just asked Alexa on our Amazon Echo for a challenge and this is what she said,” according to Fox 4 News. Amazon Echo’s reply was, “Here is what I found on the web… according to ourcommunitynow.com: The challenge is simple: Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
The website Alexa referenced, ourcommunitynow.com, linked to an article that was published in January 2020, “which warned parents against the trend called the ‘outlet challenge,’” Fox 4 reported. USA Today stated that the challenge began on TikTok.
Livdahl and her daughter were exercising and had just finished a challenge from YouTube created by a physical education teacher. The weather had kept them inside, and they were trying to stay active and entertained. When the child asked Alexa for another challenge, Alexa replied with the “outlet challenge.”
Livdahl commented on the incident, saying, “I was right there and yelled, ‘No, Alexa, no!’ like it was a dog. My daughter says she is too smart to do something like that anyway.” A day after her post on Twitter, Amazon Help responded to her by sending her a link to follow. She then received an email from tech support stating they were working on the issue and would later update her.
A spokesperson from Amazon said in a statement to Fox News and USA Today, “Customer trust is at the center of everything we do, and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers. As soon as we became aware of this error, we quickly fixed it, and are taking steps to help prevent something similar from happening again.”
Previously, two high schoolers did the “outlet challenge” in Massachusetts, where it set off sparks and produced smoke. The fire marshal who responded to the incident said the challenge could result in “sparks, electrical system damage, and, in some cases, fire.” According to Screenrant, it can also cause a “lethal shock.”
Forbes has previously reported that Alexa draws her information from the search engine, Bing. On Amazon’s website, the company explains, “Our customers want Alexa to get smarter and more helpful to them every day. To do that, we use your requests to Alexa to train our speech recognition and natural language understanding systems using machine learning.”
Although injuries have been reported after children have engaged in the “outlet challenge,” no deaths have occurred.