HAI Weekly Seminar with Shazeda Ahmed
In the Shadow of the ‘Smart Court’: Challenges to Fairness, Transparency, and Accountability in China’s Applications of Courtroom AI
Abstract: Critical research on applications of artificial intelligence in legal systems tends to focus on the United States, and on predictive use cases such as pretrial risk assessment. Much of this work draws from related literature on fairness, transparency, and accountability in AI, but has yet to address how in other geographic contexts, courtroom applications of AI have been rolled out with limited public scrutiny of potential sources of bias, privacy violations, and other risks.
This talk presents emergent findings from a paper coauthored with Ocean University and Peking University Professor of Law Dai Xin for the 2020 Privacy Law Scholars' Conference. We have typologized and evaluated Chinese smart court (智能法院) technologies along lines that mirror the three major claims proponents of these systems make, namely that they will ensure (1) efficiency, (2) equitable outcomes, and (3) transparency, bringing “sunlight” to China’s historically opaque legal system by making court documents openly accessible online. The full suite of technologies that fall under the Supreme People’s Court’s smart court designation ranges from natural language processing-equipped recording devices that create official documentation of trials, to automated case management systems and programs that semantically analyze outcomes in prior cases to assist judges’ decision-making, among other examples.
The emerging discourse around smart courts within China presents Chinese scholars with a unique opportunity to discuss algorithmic bias, public-private partnerships, concerns with training data quality, privacy and reputational harms, among other issues this form of technologically mediated governance produces. What are the competing views among the Chinese stakeholders involved in the smart court project—judges, lawyers, legal scholars, policymakers, technology companies—regarding these technological interventions? We contextualize our analysis of the smart courts against a rich body of literature from Chinese social science, public safety, tech industry, and law journals that reveal the complexity and lack of consensus around the smart court initiative.
HAI-CISAC Predoctoral Fellow