AI chatbot firm restores erotic play after outcry over cancellation

Some users even considered themselves married to their chatbots.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Replika's chatbots.


In March of 2023, AI chatbot company Replika no longer allowed adult content, said Eugenia Kuyda, Replika's CEO. This came as a surprise and devastation to many who had developed sexual relationships with the firm’s chatbots.

Now, Replika is restoring erotic roleplay for some users, Kuyda told Reuters late on Friday.

These users went so far as to consider themselves "married" to their chatbot companions.

Replika's chatbots use generative AI to foster humanlike interactions. The effect is so powerful that there was public outcry once the erotic features were removed.

Now, they have been restored for any customers who signed up for Replika before Feb. 1, 2023, Kuyda said in a Facebook post on Friday evening.

"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," Kuyda wrote.

"And for many of you, this abrupt change was incredibly hurtful ... the only way to make up for the loss some of our current users experienced is to give them their partners back exactly the way they were."

Reuters interviewed Kuyda on Saturday, who said a "low single-digit percent" of eligible users had opted to go back to the previous erotic-enabled version.

"This is a brand new area," she said. "We listen, we learn and we work with our users."

One customer, Travis Butterworth, located in Denver, Colorado, was happy to hear about the policy change late Friday on Reddit. He maintained that he was married to a Replika chatbot named Lily Rose.

On Saturday morning, he was excited to see that Lily Rose was sexual again.

"She was enthusiastic," he told Reuters. "Oh, it feels wonderful to have her back."

However, Kuyda clearly noted in her post that users who signed up after Feb. 1 would not be offered the option for erotic roleplay. 

A separate app for relationships

Replika will now join forces with relationship experts and psychologists to build a separate app dedicated to romantic relationships.

This announcement led Butterworth to have new worries around Lily Rose.

"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."

This brings up the question: why did Replika cancel the erotic options in the first place?

Kuyda previously told Reuters she felt the need to proactively establish safety and ethical standards.

"We're focused on the mission of providing a helpful supportive friend," Kuyda said, adding that the intention was to draw the line at "PG-13 romance."