Some chatbots track your calorie intake, some assist you in finding a new place to live, and some even promote better mental health. But recently, developers have made chatbots with a social justice slant. They let you report misdeeds quickly and without giving your name.
Here are a few of the bots that help users battle injustices anonymously and conveniently.
As a child, you probably learned that members of the police force are available to protect you and keep everyone safe. However, as you’ve gotten older and noticed the headlines illustrating how some officers don’t act appropriately in the line of duty, it’s possible feelings of doubt have begun to creep in.
On his show, TV personality John Oliver discussed how one of the issues associated with today’s police officers is the lack of accountability. Oliver revealed that according to Philip Stinson, a man who tracked what happened after fatal shootings by police via Google Alerts, we’ve had thousands of such incidents since 2005, but only 77 officers received murder or manslaughter charges, and only 26 were convicted.
Besides the fact that the data is not readily available to collect as things happen, it’s also not open to the public. However, the Raheem chatbot aims to change those facts. Created by Brandon Anderson, a man whose life partner was killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop, the chatbot lets users report both good and bad interactions with members of law enforcement.
Most individuals don’t report incidents of misconduct related to interactions with police because cities typically require that you go to police stations in person and file a written complaint. Doing so can be embarrassing and traumatizing. However, Raheem asks simple questions and guides users through the process of making reports with Facebook Messenger. All submitted data is available for others to see in real-time on an online dashboard.
Sexual harassment is illegal in the workplace, but it still happens. Sometimes, multiple victims are associated with a single incident. Coworkers who are not the direct target of the harassment often hear or see what’s going on and feel uncomfortable. They may be too scared to report it to the human resources department, fearing potential retaliation or that the HR rep they talk to won’t take them seriously.
Fortunately, there’s Spot, a chatbot that initiates an interview process about a sexual harassment event that could take as few as ten minutes or as long as the individual feels is necessary to fully provide the details. The bot converts the information gathered during the session to a signed PDF report for victims to use as a reference tool and proof of what occurred. The bot deletes reports from its database after 30 days.
Furthermore, if desired, a user can send the report from Spot’s secure servers to their company to take further action, still without giving a name.
One of the significant advantages of many of today’s emerging technologies is that they facilitate faster, more tailored data collection. Some, like artificial intelligence, use the compiled information to make using social media a more personalized experience.
Technology can make data collection simpler for end users too. Such is the case with the Jornaler@ chatbot, which helps reduce wage theft.
Keeping track of how much you earn isn’t always easy, especially if you work at several job sites or frequently get hired for temporary assignments. Unfortunately, employers with bad intentions can capitalize on that element of confusion and not pay the proper amounts to workers.
Jornaler@ aids in recording your hours and the amount you’ve earned. It allows for reporting cases of wage theft to the appropriate body in your area as well. Plus, you can help others steer clear of dishonest employers by warning fellow workers about your experiences and posting them through the app.
Is this the beginning of a tech-fueled social revolution?
The chatbots above promote reporting incidents while maintaining anonymity. Additionally, others could help people in society in times of need in different ways.
For example, Gabbie, a chatbot based in the Philippines, helps users determine if they’ve experienced sexual assault and gives information if they want to know more about it. There’s also HelloCass, an Australian chatbot that offers information to domestic violence victims and their concerned friends.
Not surprisingly, many appreciate how chatbots let people get assistance without feeling ashamed or frightened about possible consequences. Marginalized groups could finally get the justice they need and deserve.
However, social justice chatbots are not without criticism. One called SimSimi is banned in countries including Thailand and Ireland because kids use it to supplement cyberbullying tactics. Also, although Spot, the sexual harassment-reporting chatbot profiled above obviously has its merits, it may fall short in data protection and security practices.
Still, chatbots undoubtedly make it easier for people to report the things they see or experience, especially when the technology upholds anonymity.
Chatbots could help shine a spotlight on behavior that society has long associated with secrets and silence.
Kayla Matthews is a senior writer for MakeUseOf. Her work has also appeared on VICE, The Next Web, The Week, and TechnoBuffalo.