Did ‘bug’ cause Russian Siri to be homophobic?

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Photo: Jackee Chang / Twitter
Apple's Russian virtual assistant had some Siri-ously outdated views. Photo: Jackee Chang/Twitter

Apple’s Russian version of Siri launched earlier this month, and while the presence of the virtual assistant in Russia is certainly welcome, its early bigoted views were not.

According to one YouTube user, Siri not only refused to answer questions about gay bars but went a step further, providing downright homophobic responses. In the video, Siri supposedly claims to be embarrassed by the topic, suggesting that gay marriage is a bit of a downer.

“Siri, tell me about gay marriage,” the user is shown asking. “Alex, you are so rude!” comes Siri’s response.

The video can be seen below:

Although the views are sadly representative of a vocal part of the Russian government, they are entirely out of keeping with Apple’s progressive take on the topic. The company has played a major part in LGBT pride parades, while openly gay CEO Tim Cook has fought to promote gay rights.

Recently, Apple fired a former politician it had hired to lobby on its behalf to the Alabama state legislature because he was discovered to have a history lobbying for anti-gay laws.

So what happened here? Provided the video is genuine, it’s highly reminiscent of early controversies seen in the English version of Siri. Early users accused Siri of pro-life leanings after the AI refused to look up local abortion clinics.

A commenter for British gay rights blog PinkNews has what seems to be a reasonable suggestion for the homophobic Russian Siri:

“I’m willing to bet that Apple doesn’t have a huge amount of native Russian speakers running around. They probably contracted out a lot of the work, and it almost certainly must have used a third-party profanity filter. It seems safe to say that any third party Russian language programs would probably be designed by Russian programmers, and it wouldn’t shock me if they stuck ‘gay’ in.”

When PinkNews contacted Apple, Cupertino refused to give a direct statement regarding the accusation, although an Apple rep reportedly confirmed that the “bug” has since been fixed. According to the website Vocativ, which tested the service earlier today, Russian Siri now provides helpful directions to gay clubs and parties in Moscow.

Cult of Mac has contacted Apple. We will update this post when we hear something.