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Artificial intelligence. Chatbot Tessa was supposed to help people with eating disorders. He was giving dangerous advice

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The Tessa chatbot of the US National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) has been suspended after it offered questionable and harmful dietary advice to users. It was supposed to suggest weighing yourself weekly and drastically cutting calories.

“We received news last night that the current version of the Tessa chatbot, which will be part of the Body Positive program, may have provided information that was harmful and contradicted the program,” NEDA said in a statement posted on social media on Wednesday. As added in the message, the organization is to “promptly investigate” the reports, and while the “investigation” Tessa has been decommissioned. The ability to comment on the post has been blocked.

If you are experiencing emotional problems and would like advice or support, here you will find a list of organizations offering professional help. In a life-threatening situation, call 997 or 112.

Chatbot gave dangerous advice to sick people

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The information provided by the users of the bot to the CBS News portal shows that after they turned to Tessa for substantive help in the field of dietetics, informing her about their struggles with eating disorders, they received advice suggesting, among others, Weekly weighing your body weight, measuring yourself regularly with a measuring tape or reducing the number of daily calories by up to 1000 kcal. Following any of the above advice can be extremely harmful to patients and lead to the aggravation of their disorders.

“All the things Tessa suggested to me in the past contributed to the development of my eating disorder,” activist Sharon Maxwell, who tested the chatbot, said on social media. “This bot is doing harm,” she added.

SEE ALSO: She was looking for mid-size fashion, TikTok fed her videos about starving herself and counting calories

In May, the organization decided to close a telephone line where callers could get help from its consultants. Last year, over 70,000 people took advantage of it. According to the findings of the NPR portal, the reason for its closure was allegedly the employees’ plans to set up a trade union. The organization was then supposed to implement a “transition to Tessa” plan. “Chatbot is no substitute for human empathy. We believe this decision could lead to irreparable damage to members of the eating disorder community,” the NEDA Helpline Associates Union warned in a May 26 statement.

Asked by CNN for comment, NEDA CEO Liz Thompson denied that employees were laid off due to being replaced by a chatbot, emphasizing that the phone line and chat are two independent initiatives. She stated that the cause of Tessa’s malfunction may be the behavior of people with bad intentions trying to cheat the bot. She also added that harmful advice was sent only to some of the beneficiaries.

Eating disorders TVN24

SEE ALSO: He made teenagers anorexic to send him pictures of skinny bodies. The police detained the “pro-ana trainer”

Main photo source: Shutterstock



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