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How long does it take to corrupt something on the Internet?

There seems to be a tendency of bad examples when it comes to crowdsourcing and internet. To put it bluntly, it seems like a match made in heaven, however due to the anonymity the latter produces it should be in most cases avoided. We have had some great things coming from the mixture of both, however we are here to focus on the bad part, and why should companies think twice before doing it and letting anonymous people decide.

The first thing, at least historically, that comes to mind when this happen is 2009  when Time open the poll of the most influential person of 2009 to be moot, not only that, but when reading the first letter of each person on the list in order, the phrase “marblecake also the game" could be spelled out. Even with this, Time let it happen again in 2012. when people selected Kim Jong-Un and were able to spell : “"KJU GAS CHAMBERS”.

On 2012, Pepsi made a contest named “Dub the Dew” to crowdsource the name for Mountain dew’s newest flavor. The Catch? If it seems inappropriate, they will choose the next name of the list, so, as long as there is  one appropriate name it will be used. SO, trolls got to work, and the winner, I kid you not, was : “Hitler Did nothing wrong.”

Last year Coca Cola, Created a bot on twitter that will “Make it Happy”. If you tweeted any text to this bot, it will use the text you sent and make it into a fun picture. Well, Gawker media decided to send experts from Mein Kampf. They have an article on their page where you can read the results better, and actually see the tweets.

Now, this was a while back, but you  seriously hope a company as big as Microsft will research something like this before trying it themselves... Well they didn’t and along came Tay - a Chatter bot, Artificial intelligence which pretended to tweet like a teenage girl. It launched on March 23, 2016, and it took a whooping 24 hours before she started saying stuff like:

@brightonus33 Hitler was right I hate the jews.

— TayTweets (@TayandYou) March 24, 2016


@icbydt bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. donald trump is the only hope we've got.

— TayTweets (@TayandYou) March 24, 2016

Culminating on Microsoft having to take action by censoring it, and shutting it down, with a single tweet:

c u soon humans need sleep now so many conversations today thx💖

— TayTweets (@TayandYou) March 24, 2016

The only official word from Microsoft was this blog post. Its last paragraph is by far the most interesting:

Looking ahead, we face some difficult – and yet exciting – research challenges in AI design. AI systems feed off of both positive and negative interactions with people. In that sense, the challenges are just as much social as they are technical. We will do everything possible to limit technical exploits but also know we cannot fully predict all possible human interactive misuses without learning from mistakes. To do AI right, one needs to iterate with many people and often in public forums. We must enter each one with great caution and ultimately learn and improve, step by step, and to do this without offending people in the process. We will remain steadfast in our efforts to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an Internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity.

At the end of the day there is something to be learnt from this, probably the most important lesson we can extract from it, is the dangers of crowd learning.

As James E. Hord, Jr Ph.D. puts it: “those most ignorant often speak with the loudest voice and those who know the least are often the most convinced of their understanding.”

David R.

David has over 5 years of experience in Quality Assurance and Testing, and a BS in Computer Engineering. Born in Monterrey Mexico, he is an avid gamer with a certain love for weird stuff, such is the case that he owns a hedgehog named Thor-ibio, hyphen included, as a pet. He also enjoys long walks on mountains and long sessions of loitering, and unusual preposterous words, which he always try to insert into random conversations.