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Calls of bias as Siri fails to answer questions on Palestine

TikToker Mayanoraa  asked the Apple voice assistant about the time in Palestinian cities which Siri failed to answer

December 3, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Silicon Valley giant Apple is facing global outrage after a TikTok star’s video exposed how its voice assistant, Siri, did not recognise Palestinian cities, went viral.

With over 40,000 followers, Mayanora, known as Mindful Traveller on TikTok, asked Siri for the time in Palestine, to which the voice assistant replied, “I have no idea what time it is there.”

However, when she followed up with the same question for Israel, Siri immediately replied with the correct time, “In Jerusalem, Israel, it’s 13:20.”

Outraged by Apple’s apparent prejudice against Palestinians, people took to social media to accuse the tech giant of racism and discrimination.

Omar Ghraieb, a Palestinian writer who lives in Gaza, wrote: “Hi @Apple @AppleSupport, we see you, but you don’t see us! Fix it. Palestinians exist, Palestine is a country under occupation. Your shortcoming is embarrassing, you clearly support occupation.”

“Siri don’t know the time in Palestine, @AppleSupport? Pretty sure this is racist,” another Twitter user wrote.

Adamant to further prove Apple’s bias against Palestinians in her video, Mayanora asked Siri for the time in different Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Hebron.

“Sorry, I don’t know what time it is in Ramallah,” said Siri. The same response was delivered for Hebron. Ramallah currently serves as the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority.

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She continued to ask for the time in East Jerusalem, however, Siri failed again to provide an answer.

Mayanoraa told Metro that she noticed this issue when she was reading about the Pegasus spyware and the shadowban for Palestinians during the Sheikh Jarrah movement.

Many individuals documenting Israeli settler and state violence against Palestinian families facing eviction from their homes in Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, reported that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram had been “systematically censoring” their content.

“I’m still wondering how the algorithm works and why Siri is not recognising Palestine’s time zone when Android phones do,” said Mayanoraa.

Angry users in her comments on TikTok called for boycotting Apple for siding with Israel, which has been accused of committing human rights violations and illegally occupying Palestinian land.

“Omg, this is appalling. I just tried it with my Siri and it can’t tell me the time or weather in Palestine or East Jerusalem,” said one TikTok user in the comments.

Similarly, a Twitter user, commented: “I just tried this on my end and yes: it appears that @apple has coded Siri to be able to tell the time in any and every israeli city, but to refuse to give the time anywhere in palestine.”

Another user accused Apple of being complicit with Israel’s ongoing war crimes against the Palestinian people.

This comes after Apple last month filed a lawsuit against Israeli military spyware firm NSO Group and its parent company OSY Technologies, in an effort to stop the spyware company from targeting any Apple devices.

In its complaint filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple said NSO’s tools were used in “concerted efforts in 2021 to target and attack Apple customers.” The company added that “US citizens have been under surveillance by NSO’s spyware on mobile devices that can and do cross international borders.”

Apple had not yet replied to MEMO’s request for comments on the TikTok video at the time of going to press.