Do Robots Have Free Speech? Amazon Says Yes
On December 15, 1791, when the U.S. government passed the first amendment and guaranteed freedom of speech, legislators were not thinking about Alexa, Siri, Cortana, or Google Assistant.
The question now is: Should they have been?
People enjoy rights such as free speech in the United State and other countries around the world, and corporations are legally considered people for many purposes. But what about agents, smart digital assistants, and robots? As the field of artificial intelligence continues to grow and engineers pair it with natural language processing, we are increasingly seeing a voice-first future computer interface driven by intelligent assistants.
And that matters, because where AI is answering, AI had to be listening. And when AI listens, sometimes it hears sensitive material.
Case in point: the November 2015 death of Victor Parris Collins.
The accused murderer, James Bates, owned an Amazon Echo, and police were quick to request any recordings of conversations on the night of his death, as well as anything Alexa, the digital assistant Amazon embeds into the Echo, might have said. Amazon has pushed back -- doubtless fearing a reduction in sales if Echo becomes known as a spy device in customers' homes -- and today filed a motion to quash a search warrant for any recordings from the time in question.
Amazon's key point: Alexa has first-amendment rights.
"The recordings stored by Amazon for a subscriber’s Echo device will usually be both (1) the user’s speech, in the form of a request for information from Alexa, and (2) a transcript or depiction of the Alexa Voice Service response conveying the information it determines would be most responsive to the user’s query," Amazon's court filing says. "Both types of information are protected speech under the First Amendment."
That last part is the money quote. What Alexa says, Amazon is claiming, is protected under free speech laws.
The brief goes on to state that free speech legislation extends the right to browse and purchase "expressive" materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery. This means, Amazon is hoping, that people's use of Alexa should be private, and therefore not subject to government demands for release.
But the interesting part is in defining what Alexa says as "free speech."
It's a question that's only going to get more interesting as she gets smarter over time, and as Siri, Cortana, Google Assistant, and other smart digital agents make larger and larger inroads in our digital -- and physical -- lives.
The European Parliament has already proposed drafting rules for robots and AI in Europe that would grant them some form of personhood status. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has said that robots should pay taxes.
Perhaps freedom of speech for machines is not too big a leap. ..Source.. by John Koetsier , Contributor