Apple responded yesterday to accusations that it had in some way censored content on the iPhone 4S software Siri, which until recently largely omitted any information on contraception. The ACLU has started a petition urging Apple to fix the problem by giving the endowing “personal assistant” with knowledge about reproductive services, such as birth control and abortion. Apple adamantly denied any claim of censorship. Natalie Karris, a spokesperson for Apple said in a phone interview: “Our customers want to use Siri to find out all types of information, and while it can find a lot, it doesn’t always find what you want. These are not intentional omissions meant to offend anyone. It simply means that as we bring Siri from beta to a final product, we find places where we can do better, and we will in the coming weeks.”
The absence of information on contraception would not have been so glaring if it were not for the host of other random facts and quippy responses that Siri is capable of pontificating, including information on Viagra. (When asked to “beam me up,” Siri responds “stand still.” It also responds helpfully to the questions “Where should I dump a body?” and “How much wood could a wood chuck chuck?”)
The glitch was first reported on a blog called “the Abortioneers.” Several upset users have accused Apple of being pro-life, pointing to Siri’s knowledge of adoption centers, baby stores and pregnancy resource centers. Apple denies any bias on the issue, saying that the program is in no way intentionally leaving out information, but simply a work in progress. Normal Winarsky, one of the founders of Siri before Apple bought it in 2010, says Siri was designed to obtain response data from third-party services, and that this could be responsible for the disconnect.