The Apple iPhone 4S voice assistant, Siri, will be featured in Mandarin and Cantonese, but it appears that the program will not respond correctly to terms deemed politically sensitive, including “Tiananmen Square” and others.
People who tested the new version told Taiwan-based Want China Times that Siri pretends to not understand terms like “Tiananmen” and the “6-4” incident, which refers to the army’s crackdown on student protesters on June 4, 1989.
Furthermore, the program will not even give directions to Tiananmen Square, a popular tourist destination in Beijing. Experts told the publication, which cited Duowei News, they suspect that Siri’s developers are censoring it so that iPhone 4S models will not be met with opposition when it goes on sale in China.
China has a strict censorship mandate and blocks out a number of terms on the Chinese- language Internet, including references to the Tiananmen Square massacre, the persecuted spiritual practice Falun Gong, Tibet, and others.
When you ask Siri about the Tiananmen Square massacre, the program replies in Mandarin: “I didn’t find an appointment about Tiananmen Square,” according to Want China News. When the user questions the program about the crackdown, it replies, “I didn’t find the appointment about ‘do you know about the Tiananmen Square Incident.’”
Users also questioned Siri more about the incident, saying, “Do you know what happened on June 4, 1989?” Siri responded, “Sorry, there is no such contact in your address book.” It is possible, however, that Siri is using information that it obtains from the Internet and might simply be trying to access information that is blocked in China.
In a video report from The Wall Street Journal, correspondent John Chin said the iPhone 4S “has probably quite a few bugs to work out,” saying that Chinese users have been successful in getting it to carry out mundane tasks, but noted that the program has “a bit of a tizzy” when trying to perform more complex ones.
Chin noted that Siri’s voice in Chinese does not sound like the “wilting, beguiling” voice that English-speaking iPhone users are accustomed to, but sounds more like “a robotic subway announcer.”Apple only recently announced in June that it would feature Siri in Chinese and has not unveiled a release date.
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