Google won’t let you use its Gemini AI to answer questions about an upcoming election in your country – TechCrunch

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If you want to ask Google’s AI chatbot a question about an upcoming election, you will have to do it from a country where there are no elections taking place. TechCrunch has learned that the search giant has started to restrict queries made in Gemini when they relate to elections, in any market globally where elections are taking place.

The search giant confirmed to TechCrunch that it started rolling out the restrictions on Gemini to limit surfacing answers about election-related queries globally. TechCrunch understands that the update is already live in the U.S. and has begun rolling out in India and all major countries where elections are taking place in the coming months.

The shift highlights not only the role that generative AI has been playing, and has the potential to play, in the election process, but also Google’s concern about how the service might get weaponized, as well as produce inaccurate or misleading responses.

The switch in India comes just days after India issued an advisory requiring tech firms to get government permission before launching their new AI models.

Queries regarding political parties, candidates or politicians now return a preset message.

When a query about a particular political party or candidate is asked, Gemini shows a message: “I’m still learning how to answer this question. In the meantime, try Google Search.” In some cases, the tool can still be gamed. TechCrunch found the AI tool did show answers when passing on queries with typos. It’s likely that the responses will continue to be tweaked in a game of prompt engineering whack-a-mole.

Google Gemini restricting answers to election-related queries

Google Gemini restricting answers to election-related queries (left) but not when questions contained typos (right). Image Credits: Jagmeet Singh / TechCrunch

“Out of an abundance of caution on such an important topic, we have begun to roll out restrictions on the types of election-related queries for which Gemini will return responses. We take our responsibility for providing high-quality information for these types of queries seriously, and are continuously working to improve our protections,” Google said in a blog post related to the move in India earlier today.

The update was released just before the announcement of the general elections in India. Earlier this month, New Delhi issued an advisory to tech firms restricting them from releasing their new AI models in the country without government approval. After facing some backlash from global VCs and AI startup founders, the Indian government clarified that the restriction was for “significant” tech companies and not for startups.

The advisory followed a mini-scandal over Gemini and the Indian government last month. The AI tool, responding to a query about whether Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a fascist, responded that Modi had been accused of implementing policies that some had characterized as fascist. India’s deputy IT minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar called it “direct violations” of the IT Rules, 2021.

Last month, Google also suspended Gemini’s ability to generate people’s images after it showed historical inaccuracies. The company then said it would soon re-release an improved version to address the issues.

It is unclear whether Google will unblock Gemini for answering election-related queries after the elections end later this year. We have contacted Google about this and will update this story when the company responds. We are also awaiting a full list of countries where the update is live now, and we will update the post as we learn more.

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