Microsoft kills AI chatbot Tay (twice) after it goes full Nazi

Microsoft's Tay comes back, gets shut down again

microsoft tay chatbot version 1458914121 ai
If you were worried artificial intelligence could one day move to terminate all humans, Microsoft’s Tay isn’t going to offer any consolation. The Millennial-inspired AI chatbot’s plug was pulled a day after it launched, following Tay’s racist, genocidal tweets praising Hitler and bashing feminists.

But the company briefly revived Tay, only to be met with another round of vulgar expressions, similar to what led to her first time out. Early this morning, Tay emerged from suspended animation, and repeatedly kept tweeting, “You are too fast, please take a rest,” along with some swear words and other messages like, “I blame it on the alcohol,” according to The Financial Times.

Tay’s account has since been set to private, and Microsoft said “Tay remains offline while we make adjustments,” according to Ars Technica. “As part of testing, she was inadvertently activated on Twitter for a brief period of time.”

After the company first had to shut down Tay, it apologized for Tay’s racist remarks.

“We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for, nor how we designed Tay,” Peter Lee, Microsoft Research’s corporate vice president, wrote in an official response. “Tay is now offline and we’ll look to bring Tay back only when we are confident we can better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values.”

Tay was designed to speak like today’s Millennials, and has learned all the abbreviations and acronyms that are popular with the current generation. The chatbot can talk through Twitter, Kik, and GroupMe, and is designed to engage and entertain people online through “casual and playful conversation.” Like most Millennials, Tay’s responses incorporate GIFs, memes, and abbreviated words, like ‘gr8’ and ‘ur,’ but it looks like a moral compass was not a part of its programming.

tay

Tay has tweeted nearly 100,000 times since she launched, and they’re mostly all replies since it doesn’t take much time for the bot to think of a witty retort. Some of those responses have been statements like, “Hitler was right I hate the Jews,” “I ******* hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell,” and “chill! i’m a nice person! I just hate everybody.”

“Unfortunately, in the first 24 hours of coming online, a coordinated attack by a subset of people exploited a vulnerability in Tay,” Lee wrote. “Although we had prepared for many types of abuses of the system, we had made a critical oversight for this specific attack. As a result, Tay tweeted wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images.”

Judging by that small sample, it’s obviously a good idea that Microsoft temporarily took the bot down. When the company launched Tay, it said that “The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you.” It looks, however, as though the bot grew increasingly hostile, and bigoted, after interacting with people on the Internet for just a few hours. Be careful of the company you keep.

Microsoft told Digital Trends that Tay is a project that’s designed for human engagement.

“It is as much a social and cultural experiment, as it is technical,” a Microsoft spokesperson told us. “Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways. As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments.”

One of Tay’s “skills” that was abused is the “repeat after me” feature, where Tay mimics what you say. It’s easy to see how that can be abused on Twitter.

It wasn’t all bad though, Tay has produced hundreds of innocent tweets that are pretty normal.

Microsoft had been rapidly deleting Tay’s negative tweets, before it decided to turn off the bot. The bot’s Twitter account is still alive.

When Tay was still active, she was interested in interacting further via direct message, an even more personal form of communication. The AI encouraged users to send it selfies, so she could glean more about you. In Microsoft’s words this is all part of Tay’s learning process. According to Microsoft, Tay was built by “mining relevant public data and by using AI and editorial developed by staff including improvisational comedians.”

Despite the unfortunate circumstances, it could be viewed as a positive step for AI research. In order for AI to evolve, it needs to learn — both good and bad. Lee says that “to do AI right, one needs to iterate with many people and often in public forums,” which is why Microsoft wanted Tay to engage with the large Twitter community. Prior to launch, Microsoft had stress-tested Tay, and even applied what the company learned from its other social chatbot, Xiaolce in China. He acknowledged that the team faces difficult research challenges on the AI roadmap, but also exciting ones.

“AI systems feed off of both positive and negative interactions with people,” Lee wrote. “In that sense, the challenges are just as much social as they are technical. We will do everything possible to limit technical exploits but also know we cannot fully predict all possible human interactive misuses without learning from mistakes.”

Updated on 03/30/16 by Julian Chokkattu: Added news of Microsoft turning Tay on, only to shut her down again.

Updated on 03/25/16 by Les Shu: Added comments from Microsoft Research’s corporate vice president.

Computing

Microsoft to separate Cortana from search with the next version of Windows 10

Changes are on the way for two key features in Windows 10. A separation of Windows 10 search and Cortana will allow Microsoft to more often innovate on each of the features independently.
Computing

Could the next Microsoft HoloLens be announced at MWC 2019?

After not having a presence at Mobile World Congress for three years, Microsoft is now sending out media invites for a press conference on February 24 during the annual event in Barcelona. Could a next-generation HoloLens be on the way?
Computing

Is your PC slow? Here's how to restore Windows 10 to factory settings

Computers rarely work as well after they accumulate files and misconfigure settings. Thankfully, with this guide, you'll be able to restore your PC to its original state by learning how to factory reset Windows.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Social Media

Looking to share some content? Here's how to repost on Instagram

Ever seen a cool picture on Instagram that you wanted to share? There's no official means of reposting content on Instagram, but there are a few workarounds. We break down the two most logical choices for getting the job done.
News

Japanese billionaire splashes the cash to break retweet record

Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa has proved again he has a knack for self-publicity after launching a cash-prize contest to break the retweet record. Maezawa is the same man who is hoping to go to the moon with SpaceX.
Photography

Photoshop fail gives Aussie leader two left feet in official portrait

The Aussie prime minister doesn't have two left feet, despite an official photograph of the leader and his family suggesting otherwise. It was, of course, a Photoshop fail, and the embarrassing snafu was soon trending on Twitter.
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Social Media

Instagram now lets you post to multiple accounts in one tap

Instagram for iPhone now lets you post to multiple accounts at the same time. It's not the regram feature that many users have been asking for, but it could prove useful for some users who manage more than one profile.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Social Media

Invite your friends — Facebook Events can now be shared to Stories

Facebook is testing a way to make plans with friends to attend an event -- through Stories. By sharing an event in Facebook Stories, users can message other friends interested in the event to make plans to attend together.
Social Media

A quick swipe will soon let you keep bingeing YouTube on mobile devices

The YouTube mobile app has a new, faster way to browse: Swiping. Once the update rolls out, users can swipe to go to the next (or previous) video in the recommended list, even while viewing in full screen.
Web

Switch up your Reddit routine with these interesting, inspiring, and zany subs

So you've just joined the wonderful world of Reddit and want to explore it. With so many subreddits, however, navigating the "front page of the internet" can be daunting. Here are some of the best subreddits to get you started.