South Korean online chatbot suspended for hate speech

The chatbot Lee Luda attracted more than 750,000 users after its launch late last month. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM LUDA.AI

SEOUL (AFP) - A popular South Korean artificial-intelligence-driven chatbot with the persona of a 20-year-old female student was taken down this week after it was accused of bigotry towards sexual minorities, the #MeToo movement and the disabled.

Lee Luda, developed by Seoul-based start-up Scatter Lab to operate within Facebook Messenger, became an instant sensation for her spontaneous and natural reactions, attracting more than 750,000 users after its launch late last month.

Luda's AI algorithms learnt from data collected from 10 billion conversations on Kakao Talk, the country's top messenger app.

But the chatbot was rapidly embroiled in a spate of allegations that it used hate speech towards minorities, triggering a controversy that eventually forced the developer to take it offline.

In one of the captured chat shots, Luda said she "despised" gays and lesbians.

When asked about transgender people, she replied: "You are driving me mad. Don't repeat the same question. I said I don't like them."

In another conversation, she said people behind the #MeToo movement were "just ignorant", noting: "I absolutely scorn it." In her remarks about people with disabilities, Luda said she would "rather die" than live as a handicapped person.

The developer apologised over the remarks in a statement, saying they "do not represent our values as a company".

The comments stem from the database of billions of conversations that the AI programme learnt from.

The company said it had tried to prevent such gaffes during a six-month trial before the launch, but without success.

"Lee Luda is an AI like a kid just learning to have a conversation. It has a long way to go before learning many things," it said in a statement before silencing Luda on Tuesday.

"We will educate Luda to make a judgment on what answers are appropriate and better rather than learning from chats unconditionally," the company said, without giving a timetable for her return to service.

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