July 20, 2023

The Washington Post Published An Interview With AI Harriet Tubman: Black Twitter Responds

Washington Post AI Article

The Washington Post has sparked controversy after publishing an article based on an “interview” with an AI Harriet Tubman. While seen by the creators as an innovative way to engage with history, many have labeled the move unethical and exploitative.

AI Article

Writer Gillian Brokell interviewed an AI version of American abolitionist and social activist Harriet Tubman using the online educator Khan Academy’s new AI learning tool Khanmigo.

Khanmigo uses Chat4 technology to enable live chats with multiple simulated historical figures, such as Winston Churchill.

“I was curious to see what would happen recently when I had my own “interview” with Tubam,” Brokell for The Washington Post.

What has the Black Community said?

There have been several concerns about the ethics of using the new AI tool to conduct interviews like this one.

NBC BLK journalist CiCi Adams wrote on Twitter, “What is wrong with y’all?” as she attached the article from The Washington Post.

“Aside from the fact that this is unethical (in both journalism and tech), pay attention to how these AI advances are usually used in ways that disparage, exploit, and caricature Black folks,” she added.

Other users commented, “M. Tubman gave speeches and interviews while she was alive. Read and print those speeches. This is frankly offensive and about as meaningful as an interview with a see and say.” 

Harper’s Bazaar’s Features Director Kaitlyn Greenidge also commented on the screenshot.

“The idea that an algorithm written by people who drink in Black Death would ever be able to approximate the consciousness of one of our greatest liberators…” she wrote.

Chandra Prescod-Weinstein also wrote to Twitter, “Let our General rest in peace. She worked harder than anyone ever should have to. Let her spirit and memory be.”

In her piece, according to its founder Sal Khan, Brokell notes that Khanmigo is still in its beta testing phase and shouldn’t be used or considered a fact-checking tool.

Sara Keenan

Tech Reporter at POCIT. Following her master's degree in journalism, Sara cultivated a deep passion for writing and driving positive change for Black and Brown individuals across all areas of life. This passion expanded to include the experiences of Black and Brown people in tech thanks to her internship experience as an editorial assistant at a tech startup.