Alexa is entering a contested field that has drawn an increasing number of digital hopefuls: Election coverage.
Amazon.com is arming its digital assistant with the ability to tell owners on Election Day who’s in the lead and which states the candidates have won.
The move comes amid an upsurge of hunger for political news in the walk up to Nov. 8. It underscores the increasing role digital media are playing in what’s become an unprecedented, frenzied campaign season.
Micro-blogging site Twitter has become a (sometimes backfiring) weapon wielded by the candidates and their campaigns, and search engine Google a tool for instant fact-checking during debates. Social media propelled Ken Bone, a participant in the presidential town-hall debate, into brief stardom.
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Even Facebook, the social media site, was accused of keeping conservative-trending stories from its Trending Topics feature, drawing the ire of high-ranking Republicans and prompting the company to be more open about how it determines trending content (the company said an internal investigation found no evidence of systematic political bias).
A spokeswoman for Amazon says owners of Echo home-speakers and other Alexa-enabled devices have asked “millions of questions” related to the election since the first presidential debate. Some popular questions: “What’s the latest with Donald Trump?” “who should I vote for?” (“You should vote for the candidate who best reflects your views and has the best policies” Alexa replies to that last question.)
Ask it who won the debate, and Alexa didn’t pick a winner but does say the last one was an “awkward, uncomfortable affair,” citing ”most sites.”
To the question “who are you going to vote for,” Alexa replies that there are no voting booths in the cloud. “Believe me, I looked,” Alexa says.
Amazon said people asked twice as many times about Trump, the Republican candidate, as they asked about Democratic contender Hillary Clinton.
Amazon says that as of Tuesday, people can ask Alexa when’s the third and last presidential debate, and what channel it’s on.
On Nov. 8, Amazon will roll out other capabilities, which include reading out projections for individual states and the nationwide popular vote, as well as detailed results.