An Eating Disorder Chatbot Is Suspended for Giving Harmful Advice
Suggested things like losing weight
A nonprofit has suspended the use of a chatbot that was giving potentially damaging advice to people seeking help for eating disorders. Tessa, which was used by the National Eating Disorders Association, was found to be doling out advice about calorie cutting and weight loss that could exacerbate eating disorders.
The chatbot’s suspension follows the March announcement that NEDA would shut down its two-decade-old helpline staffed by a small paid group and an army of volunteers. NEDA said yesterday that it has paused the chatbot, and the nonprofit’s CEO, Liz Thompson, says the organization has concerns over language Tessa used that is “against our policies and core beliefs as an eating disorder organization.”
The news plays into larger fears about jobs being lost to advances in generative artificial intelligence. But it also shows how harmful and unpredictable chatbots can be. As researchers are still grappling with rapid advances in AI tech and its potential fallouts, companies are rushing a range of chatbots into the market, and real people are put at risk.
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