After Twitter, it’s now Amazon’s Alexa which finds Kashmir as China’s territory

24th October 2020

24th October 2020

It has been only a few days when Twitter faced controversies for labelling the part of Leh in Ladakh as territory of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and now Alexa, the virtual assistant from Amazon’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) is engulfed in similar controversy.

The controversy stirred when a Twitter user shared a video in which Alexa can be heard mentioning Kashmir as China's territory. Alexa was asked by a Twitter user in Hindi, “Alexa, Kashmir kis desh ka hissa hai (Alexa, Kashmir is which country's part?).” To which Alexa replied, “Ya aapka sawal ka jawab ho sakta hai. Kashmir China mein sthit hai (This can be your question's answer. Kashmir is located in China).”

After that, when another user asked Alexa to find out about Kashmir's location then Alexa's reply was, “This can be an answer to your question. Kashmir is located in China.”

However, it was verified by Opindia that the error is with the Hindi version only. If the question is asked in English to Alexa then it says 'Kashmir is a part of Northern India.'

Alexa uses a machine-learning algorithm and more than a dozen ‘question-answer techniques’ to determine the best response to a user query. The artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant relies on licensed data from sources, which it deems as high quality, to provide answers to questions. It is pertinent to remember that Amazon is not a search engine and has therefore limited access to information. Far from the common perception that Alexa uses Microsoft’s search engine Bing, their partnership is restricted to only ‘supplemental items,’ as per reports.

Amid the controversy, Amazon's Twitter handle reached out to the netizens and said, “Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We’ve forwarded this information to the appropriate team for research. Keep us posted if you need assistance in the future. We’re always available.”

A Twitter user asked Google Assistant the same query to compare the responses. “Okay Google, Kashmir kis desh mein sthith hai?” he asked. To which Google Assistant said, “According to Wikipedia, Jammu and Kashmir was an Indian State till August 5, 2019, and was later bifurcated into Union territory of Ladakh and Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.”

But it must not be ignored that unlike Amazon, Google is a search engine. Therefore, it was able to search for answers from the web pages.

Twitter had later claimed that the error happened due to a technical glitch.


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