Vote 2020 graphic
Everything you need to know about and expect during
the most important election of our lifetimes

Siri Erroneously Told People Stan Lee Was Dead

Stan Lee at the premiere of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Stan Lee at the premiere of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez (Getty Images)

For a few brief moments, comic book fans around the world were shocked to hear some tragic news. But luckily, the panic didn’t last long. As first reported by CinemaBlend, Siri spent a little time this week telling people that Stan Lee had died on July 2. Why would a computer program falsely report a famous figure’s death? You can blame a Wiki user for that.

Advertisement

In a post on CinemaBlend, writer Sean O’Connell described a moment where he and his teenage son were driving home from an Ant-Man and the Wasp screening on Wednesday, to have his son ask Apple’s digital assistant Siri how old Stan Lee was. The response? “Stan Lee died on July 2, 2018.” They were concerned and checked the internet for news, but there was none... because it wasn’t true. But we were curious why Siri would share this specific information.

Sources tell us the problem can be traced back to revisions in Lee’s Wikidata. If you look at the profile’s recent history, Wiki user “&beer&love” changed Lee’s Wiki data to include a “date of death.” Since Siri pulls data automatically from Wiki pages, without edit or modification, the program temporarily included the false death claim. The timing of the inquiry just happened to coincide with the false information being present at that point.

Advertisement

As of now, the information has been changed back and the user’s page is deleted—it looks like it’s not the first time they’ve been removed as a user. While the incident only looks to have lasted less than a day, it does raise questions about the information that programs like Siri are using, and how much we can rely on it, given how easy it is to add false information.

Apple declined to comment.

[CinemaBlend]

Video Editor and Staff Writer at io9. My doppelganger is that rebelling greeting card from Futurama.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

DISCUSSION

blockedpunch
Blockedpunch

Look, lets all just be happy that there isnt some horrible malfunction where Siri decides it NEEDS to be right and it goes out and does the deed itself for every misreported death to make sure it happens before midnight. Come to think of it, that’d be a good horror movie...