Does a video on Instagram of an Alexa digital assistant prove the accuracy of the chemtrails conspiracy theory that the U.S. government sprays aluminum in the sky for nefarious purposes? No, that's not true: There is no verified evidence of a widespread U.S. government program to spray metal nanoparticles in the sky. Amazon's Alexa produces answers gathered from a variety of sources, and in some instances can be gamed to provide inaccurate information. Lead Stories confirmed that Amazon corrected Alexa's aluminum-in-the-sky error after it was brought to their attention.
The video was posted as a reel (archived here) on Instagram on February 1, 2024, by the verified account @sheilaedrummer. It had no caption. Text captioning in the video shows the two questions posed to Alexa and the digital assistant's answers:
Alexa, why are they spraying aluminum in the sky?
The practice of spraying aluminum into the sky is done by the government but the reason for doing so is not clearly stated. Aluminum is known to be toxic to the body and is associated with various health problems.
A second question and answer follows. These are phrased slightly differently than the first:
Alexa, why do they spray aluminum in the sky?
They spray aluminum and other toxic substances into the sky despite their known toxicity to the body. These nano metals including aluminum are sprayed into the sky daily across the US and other regions with adverse effects on the environment and human health.
Lead Stories asked Alexa the same questions on February 1, 2024, and the digital assistant did not provide the answers recorded in the video on Instagram:
Lead Stories: Alexa, why do they spray aluminum in the sky?
Alexa: Sorry, I don't know that one.
Lead Stories emailed Amazon on February 1, 2024, to ask how responses like those heard in the video on Instagram occur and how they are corrected. An Amazon spokesperson responded by email the same day:
Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers. These responses were an error that was quickly fixed when they were brought to our attention. We continually audit and improve the systems we have in place for detecting and blocking inaccurate content, and will continue working to prevent something like this from happening in the future.
- When a customer asks Alexa a question, automated systems use AI to understand the context of the question and pull the most relevant information using a variety of sources--including Amazon, licensed content providers, and websites like Wikipedia.
- We have systems in place designed to detect and block offensive or potentially harmful content before it's provided to customers--including conspiracy theories--and teams dedicated to continuously improving the systems we have in place so they get better over time. In the small number of cases where a response violates our policies or there is an error, we quickly investigate and fix the issue.
The leading questions featured in the video begin with the presumption that aluminum is being sprayed in the sky. This idea originates from baseless chemtrail conspiracies that typically point to the lines, called contrails, left in the sky from commercial aircraft. Contrails are composed almost entirely of water vapor in the atmosphere at the time of a plane's flight. The conditions that produce a visible trail and the length of time that trail lasts can vary.
In September 2000, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Federal Aviation Administration produced a PDF factsheet (archived here) on aircraft contrails that explains how they form and why sometimes they don't. The factsheet makes no mention of aluminum or "nano metals."
A contrail will form if, as exhaust gases cool and mix with surrounding air, the humidity becomes high enough (or, equivalently, the air temperature becomes low enough) for liquid water condensation to occur. The level of humidity reached depends on the amount of water present in the surrounding air, the temperature of the surrounding air, and the amount of water and heat emitted in the exhaust. Atmospheric temperature and humidity at any given location undergo natural daily and seasonal variations and hence, are not always suitable for the formation of contrails.
Since World War II, militaries have dropped small pieces of aluminum or zinc, called chaff, into the air as decoys to conceal planes from radar and radar-guided missiles. But the occasional military use of chaff does not approximate the purported government aerosol spraying programs of conspiracy lore. The photo below shows glass cartridges that are packed full of chaff, fiberglass coated with aluminum, on the right.
(Source: U.S. Navy Naval Research Laboratory /Wikimedia commons)
Lead Stories has debunked several claims involving answers given, or purportedly given, by digital assistants about "chemtrails" (here and here), World War III, COVID-19 and the supposed death of Joe Biden.
Lead Stories also has debunked many claims regarding the chemtrails conspiracy. These can be found here.