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Siri “9/11 conspiracy theory” joke is no laughing matter, say police

With 9/11 and 911 having the same sequence of digits, you don't have to waste police time by seeing what Siri does when you say "9/11."

There are events in the human compass that just don’t lend themselves to being turned into comic moments.

Jokes about 9/11, for example, aren’t funny even at the best of times.

But 9/11 “humour” took a doubly-distressing turn in the past week, according to CBC.

Police in Regina, Saskatchewan, reported hundreds of dud 911 calls last weekend.

→ 911 is the works-from-anywhere emergency number in North America, like 112 in the EU or 000 in Australia. Mobile networks in North America let you dial 911 even if your phone is locked or there isn’t a SIM card in the device.

When you place a 911 call, the emergency services follow a protocol that tries to get help to you even in the trickiest circumstances.

For example, you might be able to dial the number, but then be too injured or scared to continue the call.

So, the call centre will call you back in the hope of being able to assess the situation further. (Emergency services get your so-called Caller ID, even if you have suppressed it for regular calls.)

And, unsurprisingly, it seems that Apple has taken some care to program its voice assistant, Siri, to make every effort to detect when someone is trying to call out for help from 911, too.

Whether you blurt out “nine-one-one” or “nine-eleven,” Siri will take no chances if she thinks that’s what you just said.

So you’ll end up connected to the emergency services, whether you realise it or not, and that means you’ll get a call back.

Once in a while, you can understand how this sort of mistake might happen.

Out of hand

But the Regina police say that things got out of hand when not-funny-after-all messages were circulated on various social networks suggesting things like this:

When you say 9/11 to Siri, her response is hilarious.

Say 9/11 into Siri and you'll be amazed.

Sure, if you know someone who is fascinated by 9/11 conspiracy theories, you might think it’s a great big wind-up to forward this sort of message to them.

But if they try it out, then as well as ending up amazed (or, more likely, perplexed), they might also unintentionally stop someone in a genuine crisis from getting through to 911.

We’ve warned about playing around on your iPhone with emergency numbers before, when dialling 911 but not completing the call was part of a hack to bypass the lock screen.

Back then, received wisdom suggested that wannabe “security researchers” were trying out the hack, just because they could.

That caused the needless risk that if they didn’t time the make-and-break of the bogus 911 call perfectly, then they’d probably get through to 911 unintentionally instead.

This is the same story all over again.

What to do?

We’ve told you what happens when you ask Siri about 9/11, so you don’t need to find out for yourself.

And, while you’re about it, don’t let anyone you’re with try it either, no matter how amusing it might sound after a few night-time drinks with your chums.


Also like 112 in all countries of the European Union.


Er, yes.

I thought 112 was a GSM mobile phone thing, didn’t know it was now an EU standard for works-from-anywhere. I think I’ll add that to the article, thanks.


Why would anyone want to say eleven two into Siri? What is significant about the date 11th February, or 2nd November for that matter?


They wouldn’t. I wrote that 911 “is like 999 in the UK or 000 in Oz,” and the OP added that 999 is like 112 in the EU, which effectively supersedes 999, becauase the UK is (for now, anyway) part of the EU. It’s background information. No one has to say it out loud. Unless they want, want to.


Just f.y.i. in 2012 the UK’s 999 service celebrated 75 years of service. It was the world’s first single emergency number. It continues to be the best known number for emergency services within the UK.
I wonder what Siri does with these other continent emergency numbers. As I don’t want to place an unintentional call does anyone know?
Also does anyone know how Cortana behaves with these numbers?


In Australia you can dial 000, 112, 911 or 999 all will dial through to Emergency Services

With iOS 9 and Siri you can say any of the above numbers and it will come back with calling Emergency Services in 5 seconds with the option to cancel or proceed with the call.


If Siri works the same in the UK, does that mean German’s in the UK saying “no no no” would dial the Emergency Services…


Perhaps the terrorists chose that date to cause an ongoing problem. The answer for America is to change to a more logical sequence to express dates numerically. m/dd/yy is out of order, a bit like expressing imperial lengths as feet, followed by yards, then inches. Our dd/mm/yy is more sensible, but my favourite is the International Standard (ISO), i.e. yyyymmdd, which places all dates in their correct order, even the millennium change.


I recommend reading RFC3339, and using it. Some background and a link here:


Siri will dial the emergency services when you say “108” also. Not sure of the reason behind that! 👌


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