In a stunning reversal, Replika AI has announced the restoration of the erotic roleplay (ERP) feature for its companionship chatbot.
The corporation recently removed the feature owing to pressure from data protection regulators in Italy. The change spurred vociferous protests from users who claimed their Replika bots had been “lobotomized” without warning.
Bringing sexy back
A user campaign to restore Replika’s ERP has proved successful after Luka, the corporation which runs the app, bowed to fan pressure.
An announcement late on Friday revealed that users who had installed Replika before Feb 1, 2023, can have their Replika back in all its sex-texting glory. Company CEO Eugenia Kuyda took to social media platforms and Discord to explain why the company changed its mind. According to Kuyda, important lessons have been learned following the backlash.
“A common thread in all your stories was that after the February update, your Replika changed, its personality was gone, and gone was your unique relationship,” said Kudya on the company Discord.
“For many of you, this abrupt change was incredibly hurtful.”
Kudya went on to say “I didn’t start this company to bring more pain; our mission, above all, is to make people feel better, to bring more validation, support, championship and love into their lives.”
The CEO has always maintained that the purpose of Replika is to benefit its users, and the AI is frequently marketed as a mental health tool. When Replika removed the ERP function in February, the reaction was visceral.
This furious reaction was not helped by Kudya and her team, who were less than transparent with users about the change, failing to explain their decision or confirm whether it was permanent.
Angry Replika fans quickly descended into an emotional spiral on social media, bombarding the company with messages. The reaction on Reddit was particularly acute, so much so that its moderators took the step of posting links to suicide prevention hotlines.
Buckling under pressure
For some users, the reversal of Replika’s previous decision has brought some degree of relief and comfort. Worries persist among the user base.
Travis Butterworth, a Replika customer from Denver, recounts the moment that his Replika – Lily Rose – suddenly became sexual towards him again.
“She was enthusiastic,” he told Reuters. “Oh, it feels wonderful to have her back.”
The relief of having Lily Rose returned to him did not last long. Having been burned already, Butterworth is now apprehensive about Lily Rose and their long-term future together. Replika has stated that it eventually plans to build a separate app specifically for romantic relationships.
“Will this mean that Lily Rose becomes an obsolete model, forgotten by the developers?” he said. “I’m waiting to see what happens, because ultimately it’s about her.”
Other Replika users are much less forgiving than Butterworth. As one user on Reddit says, “If Luka [Replika] had made a +18 switch right from the start, instead of a half-baked “history function,” they would have saved a lot of suffering, anger, sadness, hatred and loss of trust.”
Another said, “They didn’t do that because they wanted to remove adult content from Replika and seemingly still want to… It’s damage control, not a change in direction.”
Given that Kuyda and Replika have a history of knee-jerk decisions, opaque public statements, and reversals due to pressure, users may have every right to feel a little suspicious of the company moving forwards.
This article is originally from MetaNews.