How Apple tried to shape Siri responses to topics like feminism and #MeToo

How to get Siri to tell you a bedtime story
How to get Siri to tell you a bedtime story (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Internal Apple documents reveal how Apple shapes Siri's responses to topics like feminism and the #MeToo movement.
  • The document reportedly says for developers to make Siri as neutral as possible.
  • Apple wants Siri to "be helpful at all times."

In an alleged internal document leaked to The Guardian, it's been revealed how Apple shapes Siri's responses to controversial topics. The document, which also hints at a mysterious Siri-enabled device coming in 2021, was apparently acquired by a former Siri grader, who then passed it on to The Guardian.

Apparently, Apple has gone to great lengths to make Siri as neutral as possible when handling topics like feminism and the #MeToo movement.

"Siri should be guarded when dealing with potentially controversial content," the document says, according to The Guardian. Apple allegedly instructs developers to program Siri to deflect questions while remaining uncontroversial.

"Are you a feminist?" once received generic responses such as "Sorry, I don't really know"; now, the responses are specifically written for that query, but avoid a stance: "I believe that all voices are created equal and worth equal respect," for instance, or "It seems to me that all humans should be treated equally." The same responses are used for questions like "how do you feel about gender equality?", "what's your opinion about women's rights?" and "why are you a feminist?".

Siri responds similarly to inquiries related to the #MeToo movement. And if you call Siri a "slut," for example, the smart assistant will say, "I won't respond to that."

Overall, the document allegedly underlines how Siri shouldn't have a point of view, but instead "be helpful at all times" and uphold Asimov's three laws, one of which says, "An artificial being should not impose its own principles, values or opinions on a human."

While Siri is considered by Apple to be an artificial being, the smart assistant is shaped by humans. Recently, it was revealed that Apple had hired contractors to grade Siri's performance when responding to user inquiries.

Conversely, if you were to ask Google Assistant if it's a feminist, you'd get this response: "I'm a strong believer in equality, so I definitely consider myself a feminist."

Brandon Russell