Snapchat’s new text robot “My AI” has made artificial intelligence available to everyone, even the youngest users.
The text robot works so that you can ask him the questions you are wondering, such as where the nearest grocery store is, or when the sun goes down. Then you get an answer back generated by statistical algorithms.
Snapchat will soon start advertising in the text bot. Commercial companies can then pay for “My AI” to recommend their products and send links to users.
The company writes that they are experimenting with how “My AI” can provide “useful information at the right time” in their conversations.
– This means early testing of sponsored links. This way we can connect users with partners who are relevant to the conversation in the blink of an eye. At the same time, we help our partners to reach users (“Snapchatters”, journal note), who have shown an interest in what they sell.
– Backwards into the future
Finn Myrstad is specialist director for digital services at the Norwegian Consumer Council. He is particularly concerned about how young users are influenced by advertising in the text robot.
– “Venen” is available around the clock and will answer you immediately. The answers are adapted to each individual, and therefore children and young people can easily become attached to the text robot. Then the users are extra vulnerable and can be more easily manipulated, he says.
Myrstad thinks it is strange that Snapchat should start with paid links, at the same time that the EU is working on new regulations on advertising aimed at children.
– One must be careful with such advertising. Snapchat plans a large and automatic marketing aimed at children, which will become illegal with new rules from the EU. It seems that Snapchat is going backwards into the future, says Myrstad.
From talking machine to seller
Leonora Onarheim Bergsjø, associate professor at the University of Agder, specializes in the relationship between new technology and ethics.
She is very critical of Snapchat’s text robot eventually giving paid answers to its users.
– Chatbots have until now been chat machines, which will now also be sellers. They sell products to children and adults in situations where they may need trust rather than advertising.
– Early phase
Lotus Hedebroe, who is PR and communications manager for the Nordic part of Snapchat, wrote in an email that Snapchat is at the beginning of testing sponsored links in the chat with “My Ai”.
Furthermore, Hedebroe writes that Snapchat is developing a new system, where the chatbot takes account of the user’s age.
Snapchat has also introduced a function that makes it possible for parents to see if their teenagers talk to “My AI”, and how often they do it.
– We are constantly working to decide on local rules and requirements, especially because the AI landscape is developing rapidly, and we will continue to adapt to local legal requirements, writes Hedebroe.
In a presentation earlier this year, Snapchat says that the company is constantly working to ensure that users are safe.
Should limit its use
Finn Myrstad, of the Consumer Council, believes that parents must communicate clearly to their children that “My AI” and other text robots do not give answers based on feelings, but algorithms.
– It provides answers that are automatically generated based on statistical algorithms, and is at best good entertainment, but at worst a source of misinformation and bad advice. I would tell the children that they should limit their use, and only use the text robot as light entertainment.
Snapchat has not responded to NRK’s question about when sponsored links will be introduced.
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