What was the Snapchat AI glitch all about?

17 Aug 2023

Image: © prima91/Stock.adobe.com

Many users thought the Snapchat AI was behaving erratically earlier this week after the chatbot uncharacteristically posted its own story on the app.

Snapchat has confirmed that the issues reported about its AI chatbot in recent days were the result of a glitch, and not instances of the feature going rogue.

Earlier this week, Snapchat users took to X, formerly Twitter, to complain about the My AI chatbot feature posting its own story on the app and then not responding to users’ messages.

“My Snapchat AI posted a random one second story and isn’t replying to me AND IM FREAKED OUT,” posted one user. “It went sentient,” joked another.

While My AI does not typically post stories of its own on Snapchat, the chatbot powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT functions as a virtual friend to users of the app and answers questions much like any standard generative AI models.

“Why does My AI have a video of the wall and ceiling in their house as their story?” posted another user, calling the experience “very weird and honestly unsettling.” A fourth joked after being ignored by My AI: “Even a robot ain’t got time for me”.

This erratic behaviour led many to contemplate if the AI had gone rogue and developed a mind of its own. However, Snapchat parent company Snap was quick to douse the flames.

“My AI experienced a temporary outage that’s now resolved,” a spokesperson told multiple outlets. Prior to this clarification, My AI responded to some users by saying it had “encountered a technical issue” and apologised.

The ChatGPT-powered creation was first launched in February for subscribers of the premium service Snapchat+. Soon after, it was made available for free to all Snapchat users.

Snap is just one of a large batch of tech companies working to bring generative AI into their products and services. MicrosoftGoogle and Spotify all announced their own AI features earlier this year, as the interest and popularity of the technology continues to grow.

Snap released its earnings report last month, with shares reportedly plunging more than 17pc because of a weak forecast for the upcoming quarter.

CEO Evan Spiegel said that the number of daily active users on Snapchat has grown 14pc over last year to 397m while subscribers to the premium Snapchat+ service number 4m a year after being rolled out. However, revenue declined 4pc from the $1.111bn to $1.068bn.

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic