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Did Alexa 'Predict' World War III Start Date in Viral Video?

Newsweek 1/27/2023 Yevgeny Kuklychev

A viral video purports to show Amazon assistant Alexa giving the exact date for a Russian attack on Germany that it says will mark the beginning of the new World War.

"World War III starts on November 23, 2023 at 6:05pm, when Russia launches an attack against Germany," the voice-activated gadget appears to say, in response to a question about the start of World War III.

The video, or versions of it, have been shared on TikTok and on Twitter, with just one post gathering more than 200,000 engagements in just a day.

"I'll give it to you again

"Alexa is World War 3 November 23, 2023

"From 6:05 pm

"Answer: Russia will attack Germany," the caption says.

The prophecy sounded especially menacing given the latest tensions between Russia and Western powers, after German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock's recent "quiet part loud" statement that the West is "at war" with Russia.

So does Amazon know something about geopolitical trends that no one else does? Don't run for the nuclear shelters just yet.

The vertical format and barely visible logo behind the caption indicate that the clip was lifted from TikTok, though the letters block out the author's handle.

However, through a combination of reverse image and keyword searches, Newsweek found several YouTube reposts of the video that are uncaptioned, one dated December 2021, which reveal the user's TikTok handle.

While that account appears to no longer exist, the one that comes up in the search does indeed have the video in its post history. It also tags a different TikTok user, @jonbuckhouse.

This account, in turn, appears to be the source of the hoax "prediction." The video featuring the World War III question was posted by the account on Friday, April 23, 2021, according to the metadata.

Buckhouse's voice also appears to match that of the one asking Alexa the question in the original clip, suggesting this audio track may have been overlaid on other similar videos of the Alexa device.

Most of the content posted by this user is built around the concept of creating customized "Alexa responses" to random questions sent by other TikTokers.

It is also not the first time that Buckhouse's Alexa trickery sent an Alexa clip viral. A "prediction" that "Miami will be completely destroyed by a hurricane in 2025" was circulating online in 2021, receiving more than 16 million views before it was debunked by Snopes.

Another appeared to show the device tipping Dwayne The Rock Johnson for the White House.

Typically, the device searches for answers online, using a Bing-powered search engine, often pulling the highest-rated search result for its response.

"This is not Alexa's response and we have not been able to replicate this video," Alexa spokesperson told Newsweek in an email.

According to the representative, Alexa's default response to this question would be: "There hasn't been a World War III and it's impossible to predict if such a war will happen in the future. World War I occurred from 1914-1918 and World War II occurred from 1939-1945."

Newsweek tested Alexa with the exact same question and received a response in line with this statement.

"The term 'World War III' refers to a hypothetical worldwide large-scale military conflict subsequent to World War I and World War II. Though it's impossible to predict when such a war may happen again in the future, the United Nations was established to ensure that it never does," the voice assistant responded in our test.

Close-up of the base of an Amazon Echo smart speaker using the Alexa service, with Amazon logo visible, on a light wooden surface, San Ramon, California, May 31, 2018. There are reports that Amazon's smart voice assistant Alexa is currently down. Getty Images © Getty Images Close-up of the base of an Amazon Echo smart speaker using the Alexa service, with Amazon logo visible, on a light wooden surface, San Ramon, California, May 31, 2018. There are reports that Amazon's smart voice assistant Alexa is currently down. Getty Images

While it is not clear exactly what method the TikToker used to generate customized answers, there are a number of ways to override Alexa's automatic reply and for users to create their own customized Alexa responses, the spokesperson explained to Newsweek.

For example, one may use the "Alexa Skill Blueprints," which effectively allows Alexa owners to create their own voice apps and personalize their devices. Another, even simpler method is to set up an Alexa routine, customized with a specific line of response to a certain trigger—in this case, the World War III question.

"These custom responses are not reproducible for other customers unless the skill or routine is shared by the creator and specifically enabled by a recipient," the spokesperson added.

So it appears that the "Alexa prediction" about the imminent global conflict is just another hoax, though we don't know how Buckhouse—if he is indeed the video's creator—came up with the date or the casus belli, especially as it was posted more than a year before Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

It is worth noting, however, that the idea of Eastern Europe becoming ground zero for yet another global war is nothing new, and has been considered as a possibility by historians and military experts for years.

Newsweek reached out to Jon Buckhouse for comment.

Other similar Alexa "predictions" via voice assistants have generated social media buzz in the past, including Alexa supposedly predicting a mysterious catastrophic attack, "The Bombing," on the specific date: May 25, 2018.

The "prophecy," however, transpired to be nothing more than the release date of Bruce Willis's new film of the same name. The movie's title was eventually changed to Airstrike, though, somewhat ironically, that did not stop it from "bombing" in the cinemas, with total box office receipts barely passing the half-million dollar mark.

Such content is often used in conjunction with conspiracy theories, such as those about highly advanced AI taking over or big corporations getting advanced warnings about major global developments.

However, there is no evidence that Alexa is able to predict anything beyond what it can discover through publicly available online search engines.

Update: 01/27/23 8:00 p.m. ET: This article was updated to include a comment from an Alexa spokesperson.

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