Two members of Congress both Democrats, have written to Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon, expressing their concerns about the Alexa app. Alexa is a home smart device that acts as an information, news, and entertainment center and responds to voice commands.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Rep. Joe Morelle of New York are concerned that Alexa cites sources they don’t approve of — like the video site Rumble — and they worry about the spread of misinformation leading up to the 2024 election. Bezos is both the founder and CEO of Amazon, as well as the majority owner of the Washington Post.
The demands for answers come after a Washington Post story worried that Alexa sometimes refers to Rumble and Substack as sources when answering questions.
“Asked about fraud in the race — in which Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump with 306 electoral college votes — the popular voice assistant said it was ‘stolen by a massive amount of election fraud,’ citing Rumble, a video-streaming service favored by conservatives,” the Washington Post wrote earlier this month.
“The 2020 races were ‘notorious for many incidents of irregularities and indications pointing to electoral fraud taking place in major metro centers,’ according to Alexa, referencing Substack, a subscription newsletter service. Alexa contended that Trump won Pennsylvania, citing ‘an Alexa answers contributor,'” the Post wrote.
The demand letter from Klobuchar and Morelle, dated Oct. 19, follows:
As we approach the 2024 elections, we write to express serious concern about recent reporting that Amazon Alexa – a virtual voice assistant tool relied upon by millions of Americans – is repeating false claims about the outcome of the 2020 elections and to request information about your efforts to combat this troubling content.
According to public reports, when asked about the 2020 presidential election Amazon Alexa cited unvetted sources to make false claims about election fraud. While Alexa relies on a variety of sources to answer questions, when asked about the 2020 presidential election it appears that some answers were provided by contributors instead of verified news sources.
This spreading of election-related misinformation and disinformation is particularly troubling given the emerging use of artificial intelligence to mislead voters. With some ballots for the 2024 election being sent out as early as this December, it is important that proactive measures are promptly taken so that voters can trust the information that is provided to them.
The two elected members then demanded answers to the following questions no later than Nov. 3:
- What is Amazon’s existing policy to address the spread and amplification of election misinformation and disinformation by Alexa? What steps have been taken to improve the accuracy of information repeated by Alexa?
- How is Amazon vetting responses from contributors, particularly responses pertaining to our elections?
- In advance of the 2024 elections, what additional protections does Amazon intend to implement to prevent the spread of election misinformation and disinformation?
- What procedures does Amazon make available for users or others to raise concerns or complaints of misinformation shared by Alexa?
Klobuchar is chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and Morelle is the ranking member of the House Committee on House Administration.
Their letter came one day before the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that concerns government agencies censoring conservative media: