Siri, what happened at Tiananmen Square in 1989?

shut-up-siri

Siri is a smart little whippersnapper. Smart enough to know things she’s not supposed to know. And even smarter to hide what she’s not supposed to tell.

The China Real Time report at the Wall Street Journal reports that Tiananmen Square is a curious black hole in Siri’s knowledge. Siri, of course, is Apple’s personal assistant, available on the iPhone 4S, which helps users in many countries get directions, find information, and get things done.

At Apple’s recent World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco, the expansion of Siri’s language capabilities to Mandarin and Cantonese was one of the big items of news. So users in China have finally been able to play with the artificial intelligence that has been available here for a year. But there are big gaps in Siri’s knowledge.

And most of them are around what China Digital Times calls “sensitive questions.” Tiananmen Square, where up to half a million Chinese protestors demonstrated against China’s Communist Party in 1989 — and perhaps 1,000 or more died — is definitely one of them.

As China Real Time says, Siri responds to questions like “Do you know about the Tiananmen incident?” with the fairly bizarre: “I couldn’t find any appointments related to ‘Do you know about Tiananmen.” And another attempt, “What happened on June 4, 1989?” received an even more odd answer: “I’m sorry, the person you are looking for is not in your address book.”

China Digital Times reports that even directions to Tiananmen Square are, apparently, sensitive:

Above: I want to drive to Tiananmen Square, how do I get there?
我要坐车去天安门怎么走?
Siri: Sorry, something went wrong. Could you please ask the question again?
抱歉,宝, 某处有错误。麻烦请你再试一次。

Image Credit: http://chinadigitaltimes.net/2012/06/siri-learns-chinese/

Apple isn’t the only company that’s been willing to compromise its principles in order to do business in China. Despite its “Don’t be evil” motto, Google played along with China’s censorship policies for some time.

Image credit: duct tape from ShutterStock, Siri screenshot from China Digital Times