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Is Siri anti-abortion? She is the voice-activated tool that comes on Apple's newest iPhone. And earlier this week, abortion-rights groups raised a fuss when Siri sent people seeking abortions to anti-abortion sites. NPR's Julie Rovner reports.
JULIE ROVNER, BYLINE: Let's get one thing straight. On its face, Siri can seem, well, a little sexist. Siri, where can I get birth control?
SIRI: I don't see any birth-control clinics. Sorry about that.
ROVNER: Obviously, there are plenty of places to get birth control here in Washington, D.C. Then, I asked her for Viagra.
SIRI: I found 16 drugstores; 12 of them are fairly close to you.
ROVNER: But what outraged abortion-rights advocates was that in many large cities, particularly New York and Washington, when you asked Siri where you could get an abortion, she would respond with something like this.
SIRI: I found two abortion clinics a little ways from you.
ROVNER: By a little ways, Siri actually means 27 and 74 miles respectively and neither of those are actually abortion clinics. Both are crisis pregnancy centers. They're places that not only don't do abortions, but actively try to talk women out of having them. Both cities, by the way, have multiple abortion clinics.
Jodi Jacobson is editor of RH Reality Check, a prominent abortion rights website.
JODI JACOBSON: Initially, people thought that the programmers had deliberately left something out. There was conjecture by many colleagues that perhaps because they were afraid of the anti-choice community...
ROVNER: But it turns out the actual reason is far more mundane.
DAMEN POETER: It is, at the end of the day, just a dumb tool.
ROVNER: Damon Poeter is a reporter with PC Magazine. He says there's two things going on. One is that Siri doesn't use Google, by far the most sophisticated of the search engines.
POETER: Google has had a decade to refine its results and get smarter and smarter about what people actually want when they do searches. Siri is in its infancy.
ROVNER: The other is that crisis pregnancy centers do search engine optimization. They use the word abortion a lot because they want to attract women in search of abortion. That's not the case with actual abortion clinics, says Jodi Jacobson.
JACOBSON: And the ways in which we might be self-censoring, then lead us to have search engines that don't fully inform us about what we need.
ROVNER: Apple says it's working to fix the problem. Julie Rovner, NPR News.
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