Jessica Lott Thompson, left, Yukon Human Rights Commission director, introduces Dr. Julia Shaw, Canadian psychological scientist and cofounder of Spot, during a video conference call in Whitehorse on April 30. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon Human Rights Commission turns to artificial intelligence for a new reporting tool

Spot is a chatbot that allows people to record and report incidents of discrimination 24 hours a day

The Yukon Human Rights Commission has turned to technology to make it easier for Yukoners who have experienced discrimination but may feel uncomfortable picking up the phone or sending in a fax to report what happened to them.

Harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, a newly-launched chatbot called Spot allows for anyone with an internet connection to discreetly record important details about, and, if they so wish, report an incident to the commission, all without ever having to interact with another human being.

Originally developed as a tool for employees to report workplace harassment to their human resources departments, Spot’s interface resembles something that most people in the digital age are familiar with: online messaging or chat rooms.

When a user opens up Spot, the chatbot starts off by asking the user simple questions about the nature of the discrimination — for example, when and where the incident occurred, who it was perpetrated by, and the statement or actions the perpetrator used. The questions become more detailed the more the user responds, with Spot tailoring subsequent questions based on answers the user has already provided.

At the end, Spot compiles that results of the chat into a professional-looking report that it emails to the user in the form of a pdf. It then gives the user the option to send the report to the Yukon Human Rights Commission, with all information wiped from Spot’s servers when the user closes the window.

The process is secure, private and confidential, Yukon Human Rights Commission’s director Jessica Lott Thompson told media at a Spot demo on April 30, and might make some people more comfortable with documenting and reporting incidents.

“…One of the things that we’ve noticed is that there are a lot of barriers to people getting their story written down and there are a lot of barriers to people being able to clearly gather evidence as soon as possible after something has happened, to be able to generate sort of essentially their own statement,” Lott Thompson said.

“And that’s what Spot does, is it helps people to be able to create a time stamped pdf that records what happened to them in their own words. It empowers people to make their own choices about how they want to record what happened to them. They want to do it at 2 o’clock in the morning on their phone? That’s possible with this bot.”

The collaboration has been about a year in the making, Lott Thompson said, and was sparked when, by chance, she heard about Spot on the radio.

Appearing via video call from London, Spot co-founder Julia Shaw said that while Spot was initially more geared to collect reports about sexual harassment, the version being used by the commission has been tweaked to be able to accommodate more kinds of situations — racial or religious discrimination, for example.

Some of the questions Spot asks have also been re-framed to accommodate for the fact that it will be a member of the public “speaking” to the bot and that the information, if submitted, will be reviewed by the commission, instead of an employee submitting information to a manager.

Shaw, a Canadian psychologist who specializes in interviewing people about highly-emotional events in a neutral and unbiased way as possible, said it was “inspiring” that the commission was trying to improve access to justice, especially for people in remote areas or who cannot speak to the commission during working hours.

“I think it’s a really nice collaboration for us, on our side, to be able to … help, in a really tacky-sounding way, make the world a little better place and help people actually, you know, embrace and use the kinds of access you guys give,” Shaw said.

Lott Thompson emphasized that Spot is not a research, but a reporting tool, and just one of many other ways that someone can reach out to the commission with a complaint — options like visiting or calling the commission during working hours, sending in a fax or email or requesting a staff member to come to you are all still available.

The chatbot’s launch is one of several recent initiatives that the Yukon Human Rights Commissions has undertaken. In March, for example, it took part in launching a free online course called Serving All in Canada, the result of a collaborative effort between human rights commissions across the country.

The course, which is hosted on the website of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (cashra.ca/classroom) and available in both French and English, is intended to help businesses address and prevent racial profiling of customers.

Spot is available on the Yukon Human Rights Commission’s website at yukonhumanrights.ca

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

artificial intelligenceYukon

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 21, 2020

Movie poster for <em>Ìfé,</em> a movie being shown during OUT North Film Festival, which includes approximately 20 different films accessible online this year. (Submitted)
OUT North Film Festival moves to virtual format

In its ninth year, the artistic director said this year has a more diverse set of short and feature films

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Most Read