Meta could be the latest company to test the social potential of AI chatbots.
A screenshot shared by leaker Alessandro Paluzzi on Twitter shows what appears to be an intro screen for the new Instagram feature. It says that the chatbots can answer questions, give advice and help users write messages. It also says that users can choose between “30 AI personalities and find which one you like best.”
Meta has not announced any formal plans for such a feature, but chatbots would fit in with previous statements about the company’s AI ambitions. In February, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Meta was “developing AI personas that can help people in different ways” and that the company was exploring how to make such bots accessible through text conversations “like chatting in WhatsApp and Messenger.”
Other companies have also seen the potential of chatbots as an attractive social feature. Snapchat launched its own “My AI” chatbot (powered by OpenAI’s ChatGPT) in February. And sites like Character.ai have gained significant popularity by allowing users to train and talk to chatbots based on popular fictional characters. Even bots not intended for social engagement have been adopted for this. When Microsoft launched its Bing chatbot earlier this year, many users were surprised, alarmed and delighted in equal measure by the bot’s strange conversational pattern.
The difficulty for companies, however, is creating a bot that is engaging and fun to talk to, but doesn’t cross the line for offensive or dangerous interactions. For example, not long after Snap released its “My AI” bot, it started offering disturbing advice to users, including encouraging a person posing as a 13-year-old to have sex with their 31-year-old “friend”. In March, a Belgian man committed suicide, with his widow claiming he had been encouraged to commit suicide by a chatbot he had spoken to on a regular basis.
It’s not clear if Meta really plans to launch such bots on Instagram, or what security measures it will take. We’ve reached out to the company for comment and will update this story if we hear back. The leaker of the screenshot above, Paluzzi, has a reliable track record for spotting upcoming app features, including a BeReal Instagram clone and a co-authored feature on Twitter.