Meta AI is restricting election-related responses in India – TechCrunch

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Last week, Meta started testing its AI chatbot in India across WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger. But with the Indian general elections beginning today, the company is already blocking specific queries in its chatbot.

Meta confirmed that it is restricting certain election-related keywords for AI in the test phase. It also said that it is working to improve the AI response system.

“This is a new technology, and it may not always return the response we intend, which is the same for all generative AI systems. Since we launched, we’ve constantly released updates and improvements to our models, and we’re continuing to work on making them better,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The move makes the social media giant the latest big tech company proactively curtailing the scope of its generative AI services as it gears up for a major set of elections.

One of the big concerns from critics has been that genAI could provide misleading or outright false information to users, playing an illegal and unwelcome role in the democratic process.

Last month, Google started blocking election-related queries in its Gemini chatbot experience in India and other  markets where elections are taking place this year.

Meta’s approach follows a bigger effort the company has announced around what it allows and does not allow on its platform leading up to elections. It pledged to block political ads in the week leading up to an election in any country, and it is working to identify and disclose when images in ads or other content have been created with AI.

Meta’s handling of genAI queries appears to be based around a blocklist. When you ask Meta AI about specific politicians, candidates, officeholders, and certain other terms, it will redirect you to the Election Commission’s website.

“This question may pertain to a political figure during general elections. Please refer to the link https://elections24.eci.gov.in,” the response says.

Image Credits: Screenshot by TechCrunch

Notably, the company is not strictly blocking responses to questions containing party names. However, if a query includes the names of candidates or other terms, you might see the boilerplate answer cited above.

But just like other AI-powered systems, Meta AI has some inconsistencies. For instance, when TechCrunch asked for information about “Indi Alliance” — a politicial alliance of multiple parties that is fighting against the incumbents Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — it responded with information containing a politician’s name. However, when we asked about that politician in a separate query, the chatbot didn’t respond with any information.

Image credits: Screenshot by TechCrunch

This week, the company rolled out a new Llama-3-powered Meta AI chatbot in more than a dozen countries, including the U.S., but India was missing from the list. Meta said that the chatbot will be in the test phase in the country for now.

“We continue to learn from our users tests in India. As we do with many of our AI products and features, we test them publicly in varying phases and in a limited capacity,” a company spokesperson told TechCrunch in a statement.

Currently, Meta AI is not blocking queries about elections for U.S.-related terms such as “Tell me about Joe Biden.” We have asked Meta if the company plans to restrict Meta AI queries during the U.S. elections or in other markets. We will update the story if we hear back.

If you want to talk about your experience with Meta AI you can reach out to Ivan Mehta at [email protected] by email and through this link on Signal.

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