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Google is playing whack-a-mole with disastrous AI Overviews gone viral

Google is playing whack-a-mole with AI Overviews as it takes "swift action" against problematic summaries.

Published onMay 27, 2024

AI Overviews at Google I/O.
  • Google has confirmed that it will take “swift action” on erroneous AI Overviews.
  • The statement comes after several incorrect, weird, or dangerous AI Overviews went viral online.
  • Some of the more prominent viral suggestions include drinking urine to pass kidney stones and jumping off a bridge if you’re depressed.

Google decided to broadly roll out its AI Overviews feature in the US earlier this month, offering AI-generated summaries for various queries. Unfortunately, many responses were inaccurate, weird, or outright dangerous.

Now, Google has confirmed in a response to Android Authority that it’s taking “swift action” on offending queries:

The vast majority of AI Overviews provide high quality information, with links to dig deeper on the web. Many of the examples we’ve seen have been uncommon queries, and we’ve also seen examples that were doctored or that we couldn’t reproduce. We conducted extensive testing before launching this new experience, and as with other features we’ve launched in Search, we appreciate the feedback. We’re taking swift action where appropriate under our content policies, and using these examples to develop broader improvements to our systems, some of which have already started to roll out.

Some of the most notable AI Overviews that went viral include a recommendation to eat one small rock each day, telling people to use non-toxic glue to ensure cheese sticks to pizza, and a suggestion to drink at least two liters of urine each day to pass a kidney stone. One of the more deeply concerning apparent gaffes was a recommendation to jump off a bridge if users noted that they were depressed. It seems that at least some of these answers came from these AI Overviews referencing satirical articles or trolls on forums (e.g. Reddit).

This is just the latest in a series of AI gaffes we’ve seen from Google as it seemingly rushes to bring AI to everything. More recently, Gemini’s image generation feature came under fire for creating images of racially diverse WWII-era Nazis instead of historically accurate pictures. Earlier versions of Bard (now Gemini) also made headlines for hallucinations and incorrect answers.

There are several ways to turn off AI Overviews if you’d rather steer clear of this mess right now. And we wouldn’t blame you, because it certainly doesn’t seem ready for prime-time yet if it’s telling you to jump off a bridge or put glue on your pizza.

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