Link Round-Up: March 3, 2017


'Link Round-Up’ gives you a glimpse into the articles that got the most airtime around the Loom Analytics water cooler this week. Published every Friday, article topics include access to justice, big data, legal technology, and what’s happening in the Canadian legal landscape.

  • As part of its Conversation AI open source project, Google offshoot Jigsaw released the 'Perspective' API on February 23rd. Perspective allows developers to build Jigsaw's machine-learning-based anti-harassment tools into their websites and software. The API works by rating the 'toxicity' of speech, making it a potentially invaluable tool for flagging and deleting abusive language in online comment sections. However, some have raised concerns about Perspective's potential to be too heavily relied upon to the point of censorship, opening the door for what Emma Llansó at the Center for Democracy and Technology calls "the delete-it-all option." Jigsaw president Jared Cohen disagrees:

"Jared Cohen … counters that the alternative for many media sites has been to censor clumsy blacklists of offensive words or to shut off comments altogether. “The default position right now is actually censorship,” says Cohen. “We’re hoping publishers will look at this and say ‘we now have a better way to facilitate conversations, and we want you to come back.'"

The experiment would see the Criminal Code amended to allow Manitoba to entirely remove the preliminary inquiry process for an accused charged with offences carrying a sentence of less than 10 years. For more serious offences, preliminary inquiries would be replaced with an out-of-court discovery process.

Though the parties responsible for the proposal maintain that preliminary hearings are a source of "considerable delay" in the Manitoba court system, detractors of the proposal, such as Scott Newman of the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba, disagree.

Newman is demanding the province and justices present data supporting their assertion preliminary inquiries are a cause of court delays. "The idea that preliminary inquiries are the cause of delay is absolutely ridiculous and untrue," he said. "There's no evidence to suggest that whatsoever."

  • In more local legal news, union reps representing Toronto Transit Commission workers have taken the TTC to court after notice was given in December that employees would soon be subject to random drug and alcohol testing. While the spokesperson for the TTC argues that the new policy stems from the TTC's duty of care for both TTC employees and public safety, the union head cites concerns about the impact on employee privacy and the risk of false positives having a detrimental effect on employee livelihood as the reasoning behind the legal battle.

And to round off our round up, some other machine learning projects that have caught our attention recently: