Microsoft’s racist chatbot returns with drug-smoking Twitter meltdown

Microsoft’s attempt to converse with millennials using an artificial intelligence bot plugged into Twitter made a short-lived return on Wednesday, before bowing out again in some sort of meltdown.

The learning experiment, which got a crash-course in racism, Holocaust denial and sexism courtesy of Twitter users, was switched back on overnight and appeared to be operating in a more sensible fashion. Microsoft had previously gone through the bot’s tweets and removed the most offensive and vowed only to bring the experiment back online if the company’s engineers could “better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values”.

However, at one point Tay tweeted about taking drugs, in front of the police, no less.

Tay then started to tweet out of control, spamming its more than 210,000 followers with the same tweet, saying: “You are too fast, please take a rest …” over and over.

Microsoft responded by making Tay’s Twitter profile private, preventing anyone from seeing the tweets, in effect taking it offline again.

Tay is made in the image of a teenage girl and is designed to interact with millennials to improve its conversational skills through machine-learning. Sadly it was vulnerable to suggestive tweets, prompting unsavoury responses.

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has launched public-facing AI chatbots. Its Chinese XiaoIce chatbot successfully interacts with more than 40 million people across Twitter, Line, Weibo and other sites but the company’s experiments targeting 18- to 24-year-olds in the US on Twitter has resulted in a completely different animal.

Powered by article was written by Samuel Gibbs, for The Guardian on Wednesday 30th March 2016 11.07 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010