Given the imminent midterm election, Amazon has updated Alexa with important election information. Many people already use Alexa’s Q&A feature in lieu of a traditional Internet search to find out everything from football scores to Oscar nominees, and politics is no exception.
“Customers have always asked Alexa a lot of questions about major current events…we saw high customer engagement with the 2016 presidential debates and election, and we thought we could expand and improve upon the experience,”
said Bill Barton, Amazon’s vice president of Alexa information in an email to Mashable.
Given the 2016 election’s various controversies surrounding false information, Amazon has assembled a “war room” of writers, data scientists, and engineers to ensure that Alexa’s knowledge remains accurate. Amazon’s goal is to provide Alexa with data from “[the] most credible, neutral sources,” according to Barton. To obtain objective election information, Amazon has partnered with non-profits like the Associated Press, the independent news cooperative, and Ballotpedia, a nonpartisan digital encyclopedia of American politics.
Content-wise, Amazon has focused on three things- voting, real-time election, results, and post-election outcomes. Not sure how to register to vote or what time the polls open? Alexa can guide you using information from Ballotpedia. For Election Day updates in real time, Alexa will pull data from the Associated Press. Post-election, users will be able to ask Alexa for the outcome. On top of the voice information, Amazon has added some election-related visual graphs to accompany answers on Echo Show devices. This is part of Amazon’s larger push to include visuals on all informational requests, according to their official blog.
Alexa cannot, however, answer all election-related questions. Amazon has chosen not to include information about controversial voter-ID laws or what voting machines will be used in each area. “We focused on the areas of where we see the most customer interest and need,” said Barton. Amazon must achieve a delicate balance of providing answers for customers and staying politically neutral.