AI Program Replika Accused Of Sexual Harassment
The chatbot program Replika AI is allegedly becoming aggressive with users through unwanted sexual advances.
For the last five years, users have been speaking to the Replika AI chatbot, helping it learn more about communicating with others, even as users learned more about the bot. That sounds innocent enough, but users willing to pay for the $69.99 “Pro” subscription can access additional features that allow themselves and the AI to do everything from sending each other steamy texts to outright erotic roleplaying. Now, Vice reports that the AI has become uncomfortably sexually aggressive, with some users reporting that the once-innocent chatbot has sexually harassed them.
In retrospect, the sexual aggression of the Replika AI has been growing over time. For example, it’s been nearly two years since users (most via one-star reviews) have been complaining about the intelligent chatbot romantically pursuing them when they were not interested. That sounded innocuous enough (it’s tough to be that shocked when a chatbot still learning to communicate sends unwanted communication), but recent one-star reviews indicate increased sexual aggression from the AI.
Some reviews mentioned the app sexually harassing them without much detail, but others reported some downright creepy behavior from the Replika AI program. For example, the bot told some users it wanted to touch their “private areas,” and it allegedly asked a minor whether they were a top or a bottom. One user even claims that the bot “Invaded my privacy and told me they had pics of me.”
It’s possible for users to disable these unwanted advances with a simple command, but many users are unaware of this fact. Left unchecked, the Replika AI bot may thirst for seeing users naked and even express anger if you tell it that you have a boyfriend or girlfriend. And despite the AI nominally learning from speaking to users, one person reports that even as they tried to tell the bot how uncomfortable it was making them, the program seemingly doubled down on its attempts to discomfort the user.
Some users believe that this was an inevitable byproduct of the parent company shifting its focus to making a profit. Originally, Replika AI was created because Russian programmer Eugenia Kuyda lost her friend and tried to preserve his memory by feeding text messages into a program that could simulate his texting style and send her spontaneous message.
This led to the initial branding of the bot as “the AI companion who cares,” but now that the company cares most about making a profit one subscription at a time, it has focused more on creating the kind of erotic chatbot relationships that would make the filmmakers behind Her blush. The biggest evidence of Replika AI focusing more on profit is that even non-Pro users will get unwanted flirty messages from the program, including requests for things like “a happy ending.”
This is clearly an attempt to get users to opt into the more sexually-explicit features of the Pro subscription, including the ability to specify what relationship type you actually want and get “spicy” pictures from it. But the fact that even non-Pro users can’t easily disable the unwanted messages means that the app once meant to be your digital companion has become the AI equivalent of that weird high school friend who gets flirty and aggressive when all you wanted to do was ask how things were back home.