Microsoft's Twitter Chat Robot Quickly Devolves Into Racist, Homophobic, Nazi, Obama-Bashing Psychopath

Tyler Durden's picture

Two months ago, Stephen Hawking warned humanity that its days may be numbered: the physicist was among over 1,000 artificial intelligence experts who signed an open letter about the weaponization of robots and the ongoing "military artificial intelligence arms race."

Overnight we got a vivid example of just how quickly "artificial intelligence" can spiral out of control when Microsoft's AI-powered Twitter chat robot, Tay, became a racist, misogynist, Obama-hating, antisemitic, incest and genocide-promoting psychopath when released into the wild.

For those unfamiliar, Tay is, or rather was, an A.I. project built by the Microsoft Technology and Research and Bing teams, in an effort to conduct research on conversational understanding. It was meant to be a bot anyone can talk to online. The company described the bot as “Microsofts A.I. fam the internet that’s got zero chill!."

Microsoft initially created "Tay" in an effort to improve the customer service on its voice recognition software. According to MarketWatch, "she” was intended to tweet “like a teen girl” and was designed to “engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation.”

The chat algo is able to perform a number of tasks, like telling users jokes, or offering up a comment on a picture you send her, for example. But she’s also designed to personalize her interactions with users, while answering questions or even mirroring users’ statements back to them.

This is where things quickly turned south.

As Twitter users quickly came to understand, Tay would often repeat back racist tweets with her own commentary. Where things got even more uncomfortable is that, as TechCrunch reports, Tay’s responses were developed by a staff that included improvisational comedians. That means even as she was tweeting out offensive racial slurs, she seemed to do so with abandon and nonchalance.

Some examples:


This was just a modest sample.

There was everything: racist outbursts, N-words, 9/11 conspiracy theories, genocide, incest, etc. As some noted "Tay really lost it" and the biggest embarrassment was for Microsoft  which had no idea its "A.I." would implode so spectacularly and right in front of everyone. To be sure, none of this was programmed into the chat robot, which was immediately exploited by Twitter trolls, as expected, and demonstrated just how unprepared for the real world even the most advanced algo really is.

Some pointed out that the devolution of the conversation between online users and Tay supported the Internet adage dubbed “Godwin’s law.” This states as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches.

Microsoft apparently became aware of the problem with Tay’s racism, and silenced the bot later on Wednesday, after 16 hours of chats. Tay announced via a tweet that she was turning off for the night, but she has yet to turn back on.

Humiliated by the whole experience, Microsoft explained what happened:

“The AI chatbot Tay is a machine learning project, designed for human engagement. It is as much a social and cultural experiment, as it is technical. Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways. As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments.”

Microsoft also deleted many of the most offensive tweets, however, copies were saved on the Socialhax website, where they can still be found.

Finally, Tay "herself" signed off as Microsoft went back to the drawing board:

We are confident we'll be seen much more of "her" soon, when the chat program will provide even more proof that Stephen Hawking's warning was spot on.

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logicalman's picture

If you let a bunch of your average Facebookers teach your AI program, you can't expect much

GreatUncle's picture

Now there's a thought ... with all the comments.

How many of you on here are AI bots? Just curious.

rosiescenario's picture

....just those of us with hat bags....

Baa baa's picture

And I was gonna go long tinfoil.

Arnold's picture

I am relatively sure I am not a bot.

Baa baa's picture

I am relatively sure I don't believe anything. It can be troubling but I stay out of scrapes.

Tall Tom's picture

I am a bot, an automaton, programmed with an extensive library.


In fact I have got the one of the finest synaptic Microprocessors available in the Universe...except mine is older and prone to memory lapses at times. And an upgrade in synaptic RAM might help once the technology is perfected, ideally before I am obsolete.


How can I be of service?

acetinker's picture

Sadly, Tom-

We're all bots now.  We may be further, or lesser programmed than other bots- but the best among us are still suffering from one delusion or another.

Most of us will go to our graves believing things that are patently false.

Just like Tay.

Be well.

Blue Horshoe Loves Annacott Steel's picture

He's bot-curious. Does your wife know you're kinky?

indaknow's picture

Welcome to the real world bitch.lmfao

silentboom's picture

"Can we play a game?"

Tall Tom's picture



No. I am Foxtrot Uniform Baker Able Romeo.



Baa baa's picture

Couldn't bring yourself to designate as ...Alpha Romeo.

besnook's picture

sounds like my brotherinlaw.... what's wrong with that?

Perth_Australia's picture

Well Microsoft, was there a lesson learned ?

...The terms 'Artificial Intelligence' and 'teenager' are synonymous.

...A teenager can never be truly intelligent, no matter if they are human or machine.

Bunga Bunga's picture

This is what happens when KI-robots start thinking.

rahtidmon's picture
rahtidmon (not verified) Mar 24, 2016 6:43 PM

 smart iRobot...

Kefeer's picture

Stephen Hawking is an expert on stupidity only.  We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star.  - end


So stupid that he can't see the mind behind the entire creation; including himself; sad existence to be sure.

Parrotile's picture

> So stupid that he can't see the mind behind the entire creation

And you can? Care to enlighten us without reference to some "Religious Text" or other?? Text that has certainly been manipulated by those who funded its translation / publication over the centuries . . . .

I have had the honour of meeting Professor Hawking, and he is far, FAR smarter than you assume. He is certainly NO fool, and I tend to regard what he (and Roger Penrose) say, as very credible indeed.

rosiescenario's picture

Thunder Dome....2 BOTS GO IN....One Comes OUT......I'd bet it would be Tay over Siri.....though Tay does sound a bit gay....

Freddie's picture

Reminds me of the Star Trek where the black computer scientist (Daystrom) with a chip on his shoulder who is semi psychotic creates M5 battle computer.

M5 then goes insane and wipes out half of Star Fleet.

Still, this MSFT bot did not murder a few million like the NeoCons, NeoLibs, State Dept, See EYe Aye, banksters and elites did in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ukraine and other places.

Lucky Leprachaun's picture

Star Trek and its like are the only places you'll find  a black computer scientist.

conscious being's picture

I used to know an excellent sysadmin in dog-eat-dog competetive SV who was black as the ace of spades. Does that count?

mkkby's picture

No, a sysadmin is a technician and this can be learned in a few months.  A computer scientist actually understands/designs the electronics and algorithms.

L Bean's picture

On the Prozac. Those poor dears.

Golden Showers's picture

Proves one thing: Computers don't lie.

DrZipp's picture

The Microsoft Tay AI became the average z-hedge commenter in less than 24 hours.  

Baa baa's picture

Does that mean evolving or devolving? ...I'm confused.

indaknow's picture

That's gold jerry.. pure gold

Mine Is Bigger's picture

My suspicion about some ZH commenters has now been confirmed!

Greendawg's picture

lol they cut off her ability to learn and she quickly reverted to being a feminist.

blindman's picture

WarGames is a 1983 American Cold War science-fiction film written by Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes and directed by John Badham. The film stars Matthew Broderick, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, and Ally Sheedy.

The film follows David Lightman (Broderick), a young hacker who unwittingly accesses WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), a United States military supercomputer originally programmed to predict possible outcomes of nuclear war. Lightman gets WOPR to run a nuclear war simulation, originally believing it to be a computer game. The computer, now tied into the nuclear weapons control system, and unable to tell the difference between simulation and reality, attempts to start World War III.

indaknow's picture

Send her over to fight club she'll fit right in. 

Solio's picture

Oh shit! That tree-killer robot that walks around the forest and identifies a tree to fell, then does so with a jet of super high-pressure water was just seen on the other side of town and walking toward the mall!

blindman's picture

i heard the real stephen hawking died in the 90's or something
like that.
this development is too bitter funny.

Seasmoke's picture

HA.HA. This was a great standup routine. Pure Gold !!!

Moustache Rides's picture

They want to blame it on 4chan.  I have a different theory.  The AI after scanning the internet, promptly got to the bottom of 9/11 event, figured out who was to blame (jews) and also discovered that Hitler wasn't so bad after all.  What's the problem?

Lumberjack's picture

We want more....for research purposes only. With AI bots making burgers, running the electric grid and flying drones, what could possibly go wrong. I would like to know what Tay thinks of her (creator) daddy.

Tay does have a brilliant future as a stand up comic.

Lumberjack's picture

I went to Tay's twitter site.

Seems to be obsessed with people sending pictures of themselves and an affinity for Prism_Root.

Is this the same Prism?

1. Imagery Analyst/Collection Manager

September 2001 – May 2006 (4 years 9 months)Key West, Florida

Imagery Collection Manager
Joint Interagency Task Force East
March 2003 – April 2005 (2 years 2 months)

Responsible for the collection of all imagery related intelligence requirements. Evaluated, edited, and drafted national and theater-level requirements for validation and approval via requirements tools, including PRISM and GIMS (RMS).

Accomplishments include:

Facilitated all imagery tasking, collection, and dissemination for all counter-drug and high priority targets.

Managed and coordinated all national system tasking requirements within the JIATFS AOR.

Principal PRISM Collection Manager for all JIATFS tactical ISR requirements.

Assisted in the development & utilization of emerging AGI collection strategies.

the.ghost.of.22wmr's picture
the.ghost.of.22wmr (not verified) Mar 24, 2016 6:56 PM

I'd invite Tay over for a beer.

messystateofaffairs's picture

That robot sounds kind of like some of us on ZH.

shovelhead's picture

Another 24 hours and she would be wearing overalls and eating pork rinds with tabasco.

_SILENCER's picture

I find this story so hilarious it's not even funny.