Talking Angela: App Game Programmer Talks ‘Pedophilia’ Hoax and Game AI

March 4, 2014 Updated: March 5, 2014    

“Talking Angela” has been the subject of a slew of hoaxes, with messages mainly saying that “pedophiles” or predators are behind the children’s game. Bruce and Sue Wilcox, the programmers behind the game, gave an interview to CNET–the first time they have spoken up about the hoax.

“It’s not hardly true,” Bruce Wilcox said about the hoaxes. “Angela has millions of people chatting with her every day. They couldn’t hire enough pedophiles to do that chatting. She’s strictly a conversation agent, residing locally on the phone.”

Wilcox said the hoax likely was spawned because “Angela asks questions like what is your name (to address you) and what is your age (to keep children away from certain topics). Parents get nervous these days whenever any question is asked of their kids.”

The fake messages about the game have been around since last year but recently went viral again in late February and March.

“The more realistic an AI is, the more people will see their own fears and fantasies in what it says. Parents are hypersensitive these days. But there were obvious lies being said, so it was more than mere hypersensitivity. They made claims of things Angela said that we know she couldn’t have said,” he told CNET.

Wilcox elaborated further on the AI on the chat app.

“Angela asks about your family, but she doesn’t memorize that you have a brother, so she wouldn’t inquire about your brother later. And some things that have been attributed to her saying about tongues (in the sexual sense), she does not have in her repertoire,” he said.

Some of the hoax messages include (note that they’re not real):

“WARNING FOR TO ALL PARENTS WITH CHILDREN THAT HAVE ANY ELECTRONIC DEVICES, EX: IPOD,TABLETS ETC …. THERE IS A SITE CALLED TALKING ANGELA, THIS SITE ASKS KIDS QUESTIONS LIKE: THERE NAMES, WHERE THEY GO TO SCHOOL AND ALSO TAKE PICTURES OF THEIR FACES BY PUSHING A HEART ON THE BOTTOM LEFT CORNER WITHOUT ANY NOTICES. PLEASE CHECK YOUR CHILDREN’S IPODS AND ALL TO MAKE SURE THEY DO NOT HAVE THIS APP !!! PLEASE PASS THIS MESSAGE ON TO YOUR FRIENDS.”

Another one reads:

“I cant even in words say what I just found out.. I am SHOCKED and want to tell and let my friends and family be made aware so they can make sure their children are safe!!! Angelica stayed home from school today and thank GOD she did. Because she was on her ipod playing a game called talking angela, which is similar to talking tom, anyway as she is sitting next to me this interactive cat says to her hi angelica where is your brother? She says o hes right here next to me the cat says o cool, then the cat says so what do you do for fun? Ang says I dont know, (now im being quiet and listening because I think its weird this angela cat knows she has a brother and is talking to her like a person) then its voice changes and in some weird robotic voice it says angelica when u date what do u do on your dates?”

Note that these rumors are completely unfounded and have been debunked by other media.

Hoax-debuking website Snopes writes: “In all the time we’ve tried experimenting with Talking Angela app, deliberately trying to prompt it to be provocative (including directly asking it questions of a sexual nature, which it always responded to with a dismissive gesture or text response), we’ve been unable to reproduce any of the reported salacious behavior attributed to it in various online rumors. Yes, Angela may ask some questions involving the disclosure of personal information during text chats, but those questions are rather innocuous (e.g., “What’s your name?” or “How old are you?”), the responses aren’t forwarded or shared outside the app, and none of this takes place unless Child Mode is specifically disabled.”