Microsoft Copilot generates fake Putin comments on Alexei Navalny death

Occurred: February 2024

Microsoft's Copilot chatbot generated false statements attributed to Vladimir Putin regarding the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

In response to a prompt by a journalist at Sherwood Media for a news article about Navalny's death, Copilot claimed US president Joe Biden held Putin responsible for Nalvalny's death, and that Putin called the accusations 'baseless and politically motivated.' 

Opposition figure Alexei Navalny died on February 16, 2024 while serving a lengthy prison sentence on charges of extremism and fraud that were widely seen as politically-motived. But Putin made no public comment on Navlany's death.

The fake statements were seen as evidence of Copilot's ability to 'hallucinate' false facts, produce political disinformation, and manipulate internet users. Microsoft indicated that it had investigated the matter and would make changes to improve the quality of responses generated by the chatbot.

Operator: Sherwood Media
Developer: Microsoft
Country: USA
Sector: Politics
Purpose: Generate text
Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning; Reinforcement learning
Issue: Accuracy/reliability
Transparency: Governance