Google’s keyboard application has seen over 500 million downloads, but one user had an unfortunate experience with the program’s auto-complete function yesterday. Since then, the phenomenon has gained quite a bit of attention.
This prompted other Gboard users to try and replicate the effect — which they were successful doing, though it’s worth noting that only Android devices had this issue.
The issue was originally posted on Twitter by Cory Doctorow, an activist and father. He allegedly sent a text asking if his babysitter was able to “sit” on a certain day. However, Google Keyboard had different plans on how the text should go. It completed the text with “sit on my face.” Obviously, this was a far cry from what he intended, and not something you’d want to send to your babysitter.
The tweet caught the attention of Buzzfeed News, who contacted Google for a comment. A spokesperson addressed the issue, and informed them that a patch was on the way.
Machine learning is a complex thing, and the models sometimes pick up on inappropriate terms without meaning to. This is why your phone doesn’t always recognize vulgarities, resulting in the notorious “duck” auto-correction.
Gboard uses personal and general language models to cater to its userbase, which explains why this unfortunate suggestion was given to other users. It’s a piece of general data, based off of previous research into human language. So, it was added when Gboard’s prediction software was updated.
I was SMSing our babysitter with the default Android SMS app; I typed "Hey! Are you free to sit" and autocomplete came up with "on my face." Needless to say, I have never entered that string into my Android device. (This is not a joke)
— son of an asylum seeker, father of an immigrant (@doctorow) July 27, 2018
“We’ve started rolling out a fix for this prediction behavior in Gboard so that users will no longer see this suggestion,” the unnamed Google spokesperson told Buzzfeed. “When we learn of an inappropriate suggestion, we work quickly to remove it.”
It is unknown when the patch will go live. Until the fix is released, users are left to their own devices — forgive the pun.
Luckily, Gboard allows users to customize their experience with the app. You can easily remove suggestions forever by dragging them to the “trash,” which appears when you tap and hold a word/phrase. Likewise, you can also save words to your personal library to avoid accidental auto-corrections.
So, if your Android phone is suggesting sexual acts, you can stop the algorithm in its tracks. This incident also serves as a reminder to check your texts before hitting send. There are entire websites dedicated to auto-correct blunders, and you don’t want to accidentally end up on one of them.