How Twitter reacted to Microsoft’s racist chatbot disaster

March 25 2016
Published in Crisis

On Wednesday morning, Microsoft introduced Tay, an experimental online chatbot designed to converse with humans and learn from their responses.

The internet being what it is, it didn’t take long for things to go horribly wrong. Within a matter of hours, trolls had the bot spouting outrageously racist and inappropriate comments, much to the amusement of the online community. Microsoft was eventually forced to shut Tay down and delete her offensive tweets, claiming she needed some “adjustments”. We used Visibrain to find out what people had to say.

Between Wednesday morning and Friday Afternoon, Microsoft’s chatbot incident attracted 133,160 tweets:

An overview of tweet volumes around the Microsoft chatbot incident

What the press had to say

The mishap was widely covered by the press, and the articles were massively shared across Twitter.

The top links shared in tweets about Microsoft's chatbot incident

At the time this article was written, the top 5 most-shared links were from:

  1. The Telegraph
  2. Business Insider
  3. Ars technica
  4. The Verge
  5. The New York Times

What Twitter had to say

The whole incident has of course been very embarrassing for Microsoft, and Twitter lapped it up. Although Microsoft quickly deleted Tay’s offensive tweets, users were sure to take screenshots before reposting them on social media.

Others criticized the fact that Tay’s fate had been a pretty predictable outcome that the brand could have forseen:

A few users saw the opportunity to get political:

Some even “defended” the bot’s right to free speech:

Tay’s foray into racism was a potential PR disaster for Microsoft, but they reacted well. The decision to shut the bot down and delete her tweets was a good one, and luckily for the brand, most people were able to appreciate the funny side.

The incident has even taken some of the heat off of one of Microsoft’s older creations:

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Published in Crisis