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MOH takes down ‘Ask Jamie’ chatbot that gave ‘misaligned’ Covid-19 advice

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has temporarily disabled the “Ask Jamie” chatbot on its website as of Monday (Oct 4), after screenshots of the chatbot dispensing safe sex advice in response to Covid-19 queries began circulating online.

MOH takes down ‘Ask Jamie’ chatbot that gave ‘misaligned’ Covid-19 advice

In a series of screenshots shared online, the chatbot provided puzzling responses to Covid-19 related queries.

SINGAPORE — The Ministry of Health (MOH) has temporarily disabled the “Ask Jamie” chatbot on its website as of Monday (Oct 4), after screenshots of the chatbot dispensing safe sex advice in response to Covid-19 queries began circulating online.

In a series of screenshots shared online, the chatbot’s puzzling responses to queries regarding steps to be taken when a family member tests positive for Covid-19 drew mostly confused and amused responses from online users.

“My daughter tested Covid positive. What should I do”, read one such query.

“You should practise safe sex through the correct and consistent use of condoms, or abstinence, for at least the whole duration of your female partner’s pregnancy,” the chatbot replied.

When asked about where one could get an ART (antigen rapid test), the chatbot mysteriously responded with “the polio vaccine is available at polyclinics, private clinics as well as travellers clinics”.

Responding to TODAY’s queries regarding the screenshots, MOH acknowledged that it was aware of the “misaligned” replies provided by the chatbot and temporarily disabled the function on Monday to allow for a “thorough system check and work on improvements”.

“In the meantime, should the public have any queries on Covid-19, they may refer to www.covid.gov.sg,” MOH added.

Conceptualised in 2014, the Ask Jamie chatbot is a virtual assistant that has been implemented across 70 government agency websites to date.

The Government Technology Agency (GovTech) states on its website that the chatbot has been trained to answer queries within specific domains, with each governmental agency getting its own version.

It uses a “natural language processing” engine to understand the questions posed by the public and responds with an appropriate answer, GovTech wrote. When an answer entails multiple permutations, Ask Jamie can be trained to ask follow-up questions to refine the answer to one relevant to the user’s query.

The chatbot remains functional on other government agency websites.

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Covid-19 Ask Jamie virtual assistant MOH chatbot

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