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MOH temporarily disables Ask Jamie chatbot after 'misaligned replies'

MOH temporarily disables Ask Jamie chatbot after 'misaligned replies'

Screenshot of the chatbot's answer circulating on social media.

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Tuesday (Oct 5) that it has temporarily disabled a chatbot on its website after it provided "misaligned replies". 

The ministry's response comes after screenshots circulating on social media showed virtual assistant Ask Jamie answering a COVID-19 related question with an answer about safe sex.

The photo shows a user asking the chatbot: "My daughter tested COVID-19 positive what should I do?"

The chatbot replied: "You should practice safe sex through the correct and consistent use of condoms, or abstinence, for at least the whole duration of your female partner's pregnancy."

In response to CNA's queries, MOH said it has disabled the chatbot function "to allow us to conduct a thorough system check and work on improvements". 

It added that if members of the public have any queries about COVID-19, they may refer to www.covid.gov.sg

Virtual assistant Ask Jamie, which was conceptualised in 2014, has been implemented across 70 government agency websites.

According to GovTech Singapore, such technology helps to provide "direct responses" to people who prefer to search for information online. In turn, manpower can also be re-directed to handle more complex queries and issues, it said.

"Ask Jamie taps on its Natural Language Processing (NLP) engine to understand the questions posed by the public and responds with an appropriate answer," said GovTech on its website.

"When an answer entails multiple permutations, Ask Jamie can be trained to ask follow-on questions to refine the answer to one relevant to the user’s query."

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Source: CNA/ad

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