By: Jeanne Law, Christian Post Reporter; christianpost.com
Google says it has now disabled all responses to questions about religious figures after coming under fire this week for not programming its smart audio technology, Google Home, to answer questions about Jesus Christ.
While Google’s home assistant device wasn’t able to give answers to any questions about Jesus or God, it had been programmed to provide information about Buddha, Muhammad and Satan, which angered many of its customers.
After being accused of having an “agenda” and bias against Jesus and Christianity, Google released a statement on Twitter Friday saying it was temporarily disabling all responses to questions about religious figures.
“[Google Assistant] might not reply in cases where web content is more vulnerable to vandalism and spam,” a spokesperson for Google said. “If our systems detect such circumstances, the Assistant might not reply. If similar vulnerabilities were detected for other questions — including those about other religious leaders — the Assistant also wouldn’t respond. We’re exploring different solutions and temporarily disabling these responses for religious figures on the Assistant.”
Television producer, author and speaker David Sams, who helped bring international attention to Google’s perceived bias against Christianity, posted a Facebook Live video showing Google Home’s updated responses to various religious figures.
“Religion can be complicated and I’m still learning,” Google Home responded to each of the religious names Sams asked about.
Sams celebrated Google’s response as a “victory” because he believes Jesus has now been given equal treatment to other religious figures. “It’s better to be on par, than you don’t know who Jesus is,” he said.
According to NPR and Edison Research, one in six adults in America (or around 39 million people) now own a voice-activated smart speaker.
The controversy began because the device can play your music, call your friends, and answer almost any question that can be found on the internet. However, when asked who was Jesus, Jesus Christ or God the smart speaker previously said it did not know the answer.
“Sorry, I’m not sure how to help” or “My apologies I don’t understand,” Google Home responded before the recent programming update.
People were up in arms because the device did provide responses to questions asking about the Islamic prophet Muhammad, Buddha and even Satan. For each of those names the device gave a full breakdown of what it found on the internet.
Sams went on to challenge Google in his Facebook Live video, asking that Google Home give an answer similar to Amazon’s Echo assistant named Alexa. He said that Alexa — which was criticized last year for saying “Jesus Christ is a fictional character” while giving answers to questions about Muhammad — now cites information on Jesus in a respectful manner.