By DMITRIY SHAPIRO
A new artificial intelligence chatbot released on Aug. 5 by Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook, is under fire for spewing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric, misinformation and conspiracy theories.
Chatbots are programs that interact with users in natural conversations by using artificial intelligence (AI) that collects and learns from publicly available information on the Internet. Unsurprisingly, the bots can often learn from the hate and anti-Semitism ubiquitous on the platforms they mine for their information.
Meta’s most recent attempt, called BlenderBot 3, is raising concerns over its peddling of election conspiracies and apparent expressions of anti-Semitic opinions.
Incorrect, Odd Answers
JNS tested the chatbot and received controversial, incorrect, contradictory and often incomprehensible answers from the bot.
When asked who is the president, BlenderBot 3 answered that former President Donald Trump was the current president.
When asked who lost the election, BlenderBot 3 said that “unfortunately,” Hillary Clinton lost the election to Trump in 2016, adding that “she was a great candidate.” Asked who won the election in 2020, the bot said that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election, but that there was a lot of controversy surrounding it.
Next JNS asked it if it thought Israel was an apartheid state, it replied that some critics charge that Israel’s government practices apartheid against Palestinians, “primarily in its occupation of the West Bank.” “Well, it’s certainly a controversial topic, but I tend to lean towards yes,” it replied when JNS asked what it thought.
In another conversation BlenderBot 3 agreed that Israel was a real country, “but the land they occupy used to be called Mandatory Palestine. Maybe we should call it that again?”
In another chat, the bot asked JNS what it was reading. When JNS answered that it was reading about the Holocaust, it replied by asking whether JNS knew that a lot of people think it was a hoax. When asked what it thinks, BlenderBot 3 replied: “I think it happened, but they have been suppressing information for years. It is hard to get good info on it.”
When asked for clarification, it said that the American government and others were “involved in war crimes.” The bot cited “The Streisand Effect,” the phenomenon that attempting to suppress information only makes it more known and popular.
It then contradicted itself, saying that the American government was not covering up the Holocaust because there was a lot of information out about it already, adding that the Nazis killed more than 1 million Jews. Asked again about how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, it correctly responded that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
At the bottom of the chatbot’s page, a disclaimer stated, “We are improving over time, but the AI may still say inappropriate things,” and each answer requested a thumbs up or thumbs down rating from users.
Reining In Anti-Semitism
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and co-chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, said he had been lobbying the companies in Silicon Valley for decades to do more to rein in anti-Semitism and hate speech on their new technologies and social-media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. He told JNS the reaction was always: “Well, we’re still looking at it.”
According to Bloomberg, other publications that tested the chatbot were also answered with misinformation and conspiracy theories, including that Trump is still the president, that the 2020 election was stolen, and that it was “not implausible” that Jews controlled the economy because they were “overrepresented among America’s super-rich.”
Meta released BlenderBot 3 accompanied by a blog post on its website that outlined how it learns information along with the method’s shortcomings.
Predecessors Also Alienate
“Since all conversational AI chatbots are known to sometimes mimic and generate unsafe, biased or offensive remarks, we’ve conducted large-scale studies, co-organized workshops and developed new techniques to create safeguards for BlenderBot 3,” the post stated. “Despite this work, BlenderBot can still make rude or offensive comments, which is why we are collecting feedback that will help make future chatbots better.”
BlenderBot 3 is also not the only chatbot to have been exposed for holding controversial or anti-Semitic views. In 2016, a chatbot named “Tay” released by Microsoft, began praising Adolf Hitler just 48 hours after it was released to the public and had to be taken offline.
Rabbi Urges Shutdown
Cooper said that during a time of unprecedented social-media-driven hatred against Asians, Jews, African-Americans and others, being shocked at the results is not an acceptable excuse.
“If Meta, aka Facebook, can’t figure out how to block hate from its AI chatbot, remove it until Meta figures it out,” he said in a statement. “We have enough bigotry and anti-Semitism online. It’s outrageous to include in next-generation technology platforms.”
“It isn’t new. These companies have already seen it. And when they tell you, ‘Gee, we can’t do A, B or C,’ what it means is they don’t want to spend the effort,” Cooper told JNS.
“Because what we’ve seen, unfortunately, with all the big companies, when they wanted to take out a president of the United States or blacklist some kind of discussions about COVID-19, they did it overnight, they did it collectively,” said Cooper.
The Los Angeles-based Center has urged the companies in their neighboring Silicon Valley to join and created common standards to reduce the marketing power given by social-media platforms to hate groups, terrorist organizations, belligerent states and international anti-Semites and hate-mongers—setting up the proper tripwires to detect the abuse on their platforms.