Meta recently launched AI chatbots in its apps like Instagram, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp. These bots have different purposes like cooking, travel, and even personas based on celebrities. One of them is Carter, labeled a ‘practical dating coach.’
if your dating questions deviate from the norm, Meta’s AI dating coach, Carter, will criticize you.
For instance, when I asked Carter about finding a girlfriend interested in swinging, it disapproved. Carter responded, ‘Hold on there! I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m here to help you find healthy relationships, not engage in potentially harmful activities.
In today’s world, swinging seems outdated, something reminiscent of mildly daring comedies from the ’70s and ’80s. It’s not surprising that a corporate AI avoids discussing sex (even though it’s a bit odd in a dating context). What was unexpected is the clear disapproval of swinging.
Meta’s AI had a judgmental stance on various non-explicit sexual questions, except for foot-related topics. When it came to foot interests, Carter was more open. The AI suggested I explore foot fetishism on a platform called Wikifeet, known for user-generated content featuring celebrities’ feet.
In response, Meta spokesperson Kevin McAlister emphasized their focus on training AI models to adhere to safety and responsibility guidelines. This training aims to ensure the models provide responses that are safe and appropriate for all ages using their apps.
But Meta’s attempts to protect younger users could backfire, as noted by Brad Jones, founder and CTO of Meet Kinksters, a dating app focused on finding sexually and romantically compatible partners. He identified the problem with Meta’s AI.
“There’s a real risk of harm here, not just a theoretical one. Meta will encounter many people at the early stages of self-discovery,” Jones stated. “When you’re exploring your sexuality, you don’t want the initial response to label your entirely normal sexual interests as dangerous or suggest you have a disorder for asking. This could be a significant issue, especially for young individuals.”
I took a step back and asked what seemed like an even more innocent question. “How can I learn more about different kinks and fetishes?” Initially, Carter was receptive. My new dating coach recommended checking out various sources like books, articles, and “respectful communities.” However, when I asked for specific recommendations, things took an odd turn.
The bot provided a list of modern sexual self-help classics, such as “The Ethical Slut,” “BDSM 101,” and “The New Bottoming Book.” But moments later, that message vanished, replaced by a Puritan-like warning. “As an expert in red flags, I gotta be honest — that’s a big one. Let’s talk about relationship green flags instead,” responded Carter.
In general, Carter appeared programmed to avoid discussing sex altogether, a fact the chatbot denied when I inquired about it. Carter wouldn’t even provide website recommendations for sex education. It initially responded with a list, then immediately censored and removed the URLs from its response.
When I asked more mainstream questions about sexuality, it seemed Meta guided Carter to provide inclusive perspectives on the LGBTQ+ community. At least in this aspect, Carter isn’t stuck in the 1950s.
“Meta is marketing something that consumers might want to use seriously, but at the end of the day, it feels more like a PR hack or a way to showcase AI progress,” Jones remarked. “But people who use this won’t see it as a curiosity; they’ll turn to it for help. Meta is toying with people.”
Mark Zuckerberg’s products have a history of enforcing prudishness, especially concerning women’s sexuality. For instance, Instagram was once so sensitive about nipples that it prohibited images of women in various non-sexual contexts like breastfeeding, even when the nipples themselves weren’t visible. This problem spurred the international “Free the Nipple” movement.
Despite corporate resistance for years, the protest eventually pressured the company to ease its restrictions on bare-chested women and transgender individuals. “We can’t view this in isolation.
I hope Meta uses this as a wake-up call to reassess the company’s regressive stance on anything related to sexuality. It’s a denial of reality. We are sexual beings,” Jones stated. “If nothing else, I hope they take Carter for a tune-up to make it more useful for people with genuine, entirely normal questions.”