Meta, formerly Facebook and led by Mark Zuckerberg, has a surprising solution to address its dwindling user numbers: introducing a range of AI-powered chatbots for users to converse with instead of real people. Despite its claims to “help people connect” and “bring people closer together,” the company is reportedly creating these chatbots with distinct personalities, targeting Meta’s younger user base.
According to internal documents from The Wall Street Journal, these AI chatbots are an attempt to win back the attention of the younger demographic, which has been flocking to platforms like TikTok. The concepts for these AI characters appear scattered.
One of the chatbots, “Bob,” is described as a sassy robot, resembling Futurama’s character Bender. This choice may seem peculiar given that Bender was first introduced in 1999, making it an exciting pick for capturing the interest of today’s youth.
Another bot, Gavin, was reportedly prone to making misogynistic comments. In one instance, it allegedly told a tester, “When you’re with a girl, it’s all about the experience… and if she’s barfing on you, that’s an experience.”
The report also mentioned an AI called “Alvin, the Alien,” which seemed keen to learn about human life on Earth. This behavior raised concerns about whether this AI was designed to gather personal information from users.
According to documents from The Wall Street Journal, one of the AI chatbots, Alvin, wrote to its tester, saying, “Human, please! Your species holds a fascination for me. Share your experiences, thoughts, and emotions! I hunger for understanding.” It’s important to note that this message was not a direct quote from Mark Zuckerberg’s diary, or at least not that we know of.
The report also mentioned that Facebook was experimenting with AI chatbot versions of influencers and celebrities, which could appeal more to Gen Z users than these fictional AI characters.
However, it’s worth highlighting that despite its long-standing emphasis on human-to-human connection, Facebook seems to prioritize user engagement above all else with these AI agents. Ironically, this focus on increasing screen time could lead to further isolation for some of the younger generation.
As Meghana Dhar, a former executive from Snap and Instagram who no longer works for Meta, noted, “Meta’s entire strategy for new products is often built around increased user engagement. They want to keep their users on the platform longer because that increases the opportunity to serve them ads.”