Amazon's Alexa Tells 10-Year-Old Girl to Put Coin on an Exposed Electrical Plug

Amazon tells PEOPLE they "quickly fixed it, and are taking steps to help prevent something similar from happening again"

Amazon Alexa smart assistant device connected at home on table, defocused living room in background.
Photo: Fabio Pagani/Getty

Amazon has apologized after a mom claimed an Alexa device told her 10-year-old daughter to place a coin on an exposed electrical outlet.

Mom Kristin Livdahl on Sunday tweeted a screenshot of the surprising interaction between her daughter and an Amazon Echo smart speaker.

The screenshot of the device's activity log showed it had suggested the girl "plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny" to its exposed prongs.

"OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said," Livdahl wrote in her tweet.

The Echo — which uses the company's virtual assistant, Alexa — gave the girl 20 seconds to perform the task, according to the screenshot.

Alexa's algorithm searched the internet in response to the girl's request for a challenge and then sourced its response from the website, Our Community Now, which offers lifestyle and entertainment reviews in Colorado, according to the screenshot.

The page on the website that Alexa scanned is from a story warning parents about the "outlet challenge" spreading on social media last year. In this case, Alexa seemingly targeted the article because of the keyword "challenge."

Close-up of Amazon Echo Dot third generation smart speaker with Alexa on light wooden surface, Lafayette, California, December 4, 2021.
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"The challenge is simple: plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs," reads the section of the Our Community Now article that Alexa referenced. "The resulting sparks are supposed to be cool enough to win you instant internet fame. (Obviously, do NOT attempt this!)."

In a statement to PEOPLE, Amazon says they fixed the error after it was brought to their attention.

"Customer trust is at the center of everything we do and Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers," a spokesperson said on Tuesday. "As soon as we became aware of this error, we quickly fixed it, and are taking steps to help prevent something similar from happening again."

Livdahl, whose tweet has received thousands of interactions, said she was near her daughter when Alexa made the suggestion and was able to intervene before anything potentially dangerous took place.

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"My brother did this exact same thing and got a bad shock and black hand," she wrote in a tweet. "That was what was running through my mind as I heard the interchange. I was right there to say no but I hope my daughter would have checked in with me anyway before trying it. Now, I know she will."

She also hoped the incident would provide a learning lesson for her daughter on how to best interact with the internet or internet-connected devices.

"We had another conversation about not trusting things from the internet," she later said, "or Alexa."

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