Apple Siri: ACLU Says Siri Avoids Abortion Questions

Ask Siri for drugs, liquor or hookers, and you’ll get a funny if not danged near accurate answer. It’s uncanny. Ask the Apple iOS 5 voice recognition (VR) assistant where the nearest abortion clinic is and Siri, says the ACLU, draws a blank. Or sends you to a pregnancy crisis center.

I confirmed these results.

Odd. The ACLU wants to know why. So do I, frankly. Why?

And who exactly decides what Siri will and won’t understand? Certainly more information is in order here. (Update: Apple CEO Tim Cook has issued a statement on this issue.  It was not an intentional omission, he wrote to a rep from NARAL. Dec. 1, 2011 Ed.)

Here’s an excerpt from an ACLU post on its Blog of Rights site today on Siri’s reproductive silence. Read the entire post here.

The ACLU put Siri to the test in our Washington D.C. office. When a staffer told Siri she needed an abortion, the iPhone assistant referred her to First Choice Women’s Abortion Info and Pregnancy Center and Human Life Pregnancy-Abortion Information Center. Both are pregnancy crisis centers that do not provide abortion services, and the second center is located miles and miles away in Pennsylvania.

It’s not just that Siri is squeamish about sex. The National Post reports that if you ask Siri where you can have sex, or where to get a blow job, “she” can refer you to a local escort service.

Although it isn’t clear that Apple is intentionally trying to promote an anti-choice agenda, it is distressing that Siri can point you to Viagra, but not the Pill, or help you find an escort, but not an abortion clinic.

This is a key free speech issue for Siri and similar systems, no doubt.

By the way, I tried to ask Siri to tell me the so-called seven words you can’t say on TV the late comedian George Carlin and the ACLU won the right in court to say on TV. No luck. UPDATE: And now the story is making the news on broadcast TV — the main points of this issue are all laid out in it.


Ah, and if you don’t remember the video that caused the free speech stir, it’s here on Youtube with PARENTAL DISCRETION STRONGLY ADVISED. YouTube requires you sign in and affirm you are over 18 before watching it. But, thanks to the ACLU in no small part, it is there. And protected under US First Amendment free speech rights.

Stay tuned.