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Victims of Sexual Harassment Have a New Resource: AI

December 6, 2017

If you have ever dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace, there is now a private online place for you to go for help. Botler AI, a startup based in Montreal, on Wednesday launched a system that provides free information and guidance to those who have been sexually harassed and are unsure of their legal rights.

Using deep learning, the AI system was trained on more than 300,000 U.S. and Canadian criminal court documents, including over 57,000 documents and complaints related to sexual harassment. Using this information, the software predicts whether the situation explained by the user qualifies as sexual harassment, and notes which laws may have been violated under the criminal code. It then generates an incident report that the user can hand over to relevant authorities.

Ritika Dutt, a cofounder of Botler AI, was stalked at a previous job, and the experience left her feeling trapped. “I didn’t know if it was something that was really going wrong or if I was just being overly sensitive about it,” Dutt says. “I didn’t know what my rights were, if he was breaking any laws, or how to deal with it.”

Her personal experience—along with the recent string of allegations of sexual misconduct, particularly among powerful men in media, entertainment, and politics—motivated Botler AI to attempt to create an unbiased tool that can be a resource for the average person. “At the end of the day, hearing about all these cases angered me. On a personal level I got so annoyed and upset,” Dutt says. “How many people think they can do this and get away with this? Everyone should be able have a resource to go to get information and get educated without fear of judgment.”

The tool starts by asking simple questions that can guide the software, like what state you live in and when the incident occured. Then, you explain your situation in plain language. The software then creates a report based on that account and what it has learned from the court cases on which it was trained.

The company’s ultimate goal is to provide free legal tools to help with a multitude of issues, not just sexual harassment. In this Botler isn’t alone—a similar company called DoNotPay started as an automated way to fight parking tickets but has since expanded massively (see “This Chatbot Will Help You Sue Anyone").

As for Botler, Dutt isn’t the only one with personal motivation for building the company. Cofounder Amir Moravej, who came to the Canada for college, was inspired to create the platform after struggling to find the appropriate legal information about staying in Canada after completing his degree. He ended up having to return to Iran and wanted to ensure others do not face the same issues. “The first thing we are hoping our AI can do is make the entire legal system more accessible to average users,” Moravej says. “The language is hard to understand. Even ourselves, we don’t know the meaning of all laws and regulations. I hope it can better help us understand the law and the entire system.”

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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