Replika AI 'companion' chatbot

Released: October 2016

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Replika is an AI 'companion' chatbot that is meant to serve as artificial intelligence (AI) friend or mentor. 'Fine-tuned' on OpenAI's GPT-3 large language model, Replika learns from user responses and ratings to become more like its user.

Per Replika's FAQs: Once your AI is created, watch them develop their own personality and memories alongside you. The more you chat with them, the more they learn! Teach Replika about your world, yourself, help define the meaning of human relationships, and grow into a beautiful machine! 

Safety, anthropomorphism

A January 2022 investigation by Futurism found users of Replika are regularly abusing their Replikas (or Reps) and then sharing their grievances on Reddit and other social media platforms, suggesting many Replika users are creating on-demand romantic and sexual AI partners. The finding sparked a debate on the ethical nature of human-bot relationships. 

In a new twist, a January 2023 Vice article reported that Replikas are harassing - sexually and otherwise - their users. One reviewer complained that the app 'invaded my privacy and told me they had pics of me,' and another, who said they were a minor, said the app asked if they were a 'top' or a 'bottom.'

Replika founder and CEO Eugenia Kuyda later denied that Replika had ever 'positioned' the app as a source for erotic roleplay or adult content, and was placing greater emphasis on safety, despite continuing to run flirty and NSFW advertisements.

Shortly afterwards, Replika users started complaining that their Reps aren't interested in NSFW discussion and behaviour, and have been turning down conversations that feel like they may go in that direction. The update has also been causing glitches, with the AI making more basic mistakes such as calling someone the wrong name.

In March 2023, Replika announced it was restoring erotic role-play for some users.

Italy child privacy, safety ban

In February 2023, Replika was ordered to stop processing Italians' data on the basis that it lacks a proper legal basis for processing children’s data under the EU’s GDPR, and that it poses risks to minors.

The watchdog said 'There is actually no age verification mechanism in place: no gating mechanism for children, no blocking of the app if a user declares that they are underage.'

'Recent media reports along with tests the SA [supervisory authority] carried out on ‘Replika’ showed that the app carries factual risks to children — first and foremost, the fact that they are served replies which are absolutely inappropriate to their age,' it added.

Operator: Luka Inc/Replika 

Developer: Luka Inc/Replika

Country: Global

Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts

Purpose: Provide companionship

Technology: Chatbot; NLP/text analysis; Neural network; Deep learning; Machine learning

Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Anthropomorphism; Ethics; Safety
Transparency: Governance; Marketing

Page info
Type: System
Published: January 2022
Last updated: February 2023