The “Alexa” Backlash

August 21, 2021

By Ahmed Bouzid (Founder & CEO at Witlingo)

As you may know — or perhaps not — several mothers of children named “Alexa” are agitating for Amazon to drop the name “Alexa” for something that is not a name that a human being uses.

A few articles have been recently published on this, and from all indications, a momentum of sorts is building up.

I was part of the team that launched the General Availability of the Amazcon Echo in June 2015, and so I was not there when the decision was made to call the assistant “Alexa.” What I can say is that no one around me was talking about it nor did it ever come up in many of the all hands meetings that I was part of.

To be totally honest, at the time it never occurred to me — not even once — that there was an issue to contend with. And my feeling is this: the team simply did not expect the Amazon Echo, and the “Alexa” brand behind it, to take off as it did. As things stood at the time, the focus, when it became clear that this was a successful product, was to deliver and to deliver on aggressive deadlines. The mood in the air and the ethos surrounding the team was: ‘Go, go, go — do, do, do.’ A conversation about the ethics of using a real name was just not something that occurred to anyone.

This is my take — and I may be totally off, of course.

Below are some articles on the push by mothers of girls named Alexa to have Amazon change the name of their assistant.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think that the Amazon team acted responsibly when they decided to name their assistant “Alexa”?

If you would like to share your thoughts, please check out this Linkedin poll and thread.

Amazon, can I have my name back? (The Washington Post, December 27, 2021)

Alex can we have our name back (The Washington Post, December 3, 2021)

Teen girl called Alexa legally changed her name and switched schools after relentless bullying for having the same name as the Amazon assistant (July 2, 2021 — Business Insider)

Parents of children called Alexa challenge Amazon (BBC, July 2, 2021)

The Jeremy Vine Show (BBC, July 2, 2021)

People called Alexa want Amazon to change its virtual assistant’s name (Techpost, July 2, 2021)

Teen named Alexa changes identity after bullying over Amazon assistant (The New York Post, July 2, 2021)

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