According to reports, an Amazon Alexa voice assistant issued a disturbing “challenge” to a 10-year-old girl earlier in December, urging the child to partially plug in a phone charger into an outlet and then use a penny to touch the partially exposed prongs.
On December 26th, Kristin Livdahl took to Twitter to share a brief account of what her Alexa device instructed her daughter to do, sharing a screenshot of her Alexa device’s history that detailed a response to inquiring about a possible challenge where the device said, “plug a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said. pic.twitter.com/HgGgrLbdS8
— Kristin Livdahl (@klivdahl) December 26, 2021
Livdahl explained that she and her daughter had been participating in various physical challenges and thought to ask Alexa for another suggestion when the potentially lethal advice was delivered by the device.
“We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a p.e. teacher on YouTube earlier,” she said. “Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.”
With regard to the Alexa response, it appears to have come from a challenge that had been circulating online over the past year, particularly on TikTok, known as the “penny challenge.”
When the challenge started gaining traction in 2020, Carlisle East fire station Station Manager Michael Clusker told Yorkshire based The Press that people could get seriously injured or killed doing this challenge.
“I know you can lose fingers, hands, arms,” Clusker said. “The outcome from this is that someone will get seriously hurt. Every year there are numbers of people killed by electrical shocks. It can kill you if it gets you right. Anything that interferes with electrical equipment – unless you are a qualified electrician – is very dangerous.”
Luckily, in Livdahl’s case, she said that her young daughter was “too smart to do something like that” when Alexa posed the challenge.
Amazon released a statement regarding the matter, saying they’ve addressed the issue and have made it so Alexa no longer presents the aforementioned challenge.
“Customer trust is at the center of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers,” the statement said. “As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it.”