Tag Archives: Defamation

These Ex-Journalists Are Using AI to Catch Online Defamation

The insight driving CaliberAI is that this universe is a bounded infinity. While AI moderation is nowhere close to being able to decisively rule on truth and falsity, it should be able to identify the subset of statements that could even potentially be defamatory.

Carl Vogel, a professor of computational linguistics at Trinity College Dublin, has helped CaliberAI build its model. He has a working formula for statements highly likely to be defamatory: They must implicitly or explicitly name an individual or group; present a claim as fact; and use some sort of taboo language or idea—like suggestions of theft, drunkenness, or other kinds of impropriety. If you feed a machine-learning algorithm a large enough sample of text, it will detect patterns and associations among negative words based on the company they keep. That will allow it to make intelligent guesses about which terms, if used about a specific group or person, place a piece of content into the defamation danger zone.

Logically enough, there was no data set of defamatory material sitting out there for CaliberAI to use, because publishers work very hard to avoid putting that stuff into the world. So the company built its own. Conor Brady started by drawing on his long experience in journalism to generate a list of defamatory statements. “We thought about all the nasty things that could be said about any person and we chopped, diced, and mixed them until we’d kind of run the whole gamut of human frailty,” he says. Then a group of annotators, overseen by Alan Reid and Abby Reynolds, a computational linguist and data linguist on the team, used the original list to build up a larger one. They use this made-up data set to train the AI to assign probability scores to sentences, from 0 (definitely not defamatory) to 100 (call your lawyer).

The result, so far, is something like spell-check for defamation. You can play with a demo version on the company’s website, which cautions that “you may notice false positives/negatives as we refine our predictive models.” I typed in “I believe John is a liar,” and the program spit out a probability of 40, below the defamation threshold. Then I tried “Everyone knows John is a liar,” and the program spit out a probability of 80 percent, flagging “Everyone knows” (statement of fact), “John” (specific person), and “liar” (negative language). Of course, that doesn’t quite settle the matter. In real life, my legal risk would depend on whether I can prove that John really is a liar.

“We are classifying on a linguistic level and returning that advisory to our customers,” says Paul Watson, the company’s chief technology officer. “Then our customers have to use their many years of experience to say, ‘Do I agree with this advisory?’ I think that’s a very important fact of what we’re building and trying to do. We’re not trying to build a ground-truth engine for the universe.”

It’s fair to wonder whether professional journalists really need an algorithm to warn that they might be defaming someone. “Any good editor or producer, any experienced journalist, ought to know it when he or she sees it,” says Sam Terilli, a professor at the University of Miami’s School of Communication and the former general counsel of the Miami Herald. “They ought to be able to at least identify those statements or passages that are potentially risky and worthy of a deeper look.”

That ideal might not always be in reach, however, especially during a period of thin budgets and heavy pressure to publish as quickly as possible.

“I think there’s a really interesting use case with news organizations,” says Amy Kristin Sanders, a media lawyer and journalism professor at the University of Texas. She points out the particular risks involved with reporting on breaking news, when a story might not go through a thorough editorial process. “For small- to medium-size newsrooms—who don’t have a general counsel present with them on a daily basis, who may rely on lots of freelancers, and who may be short staffed, so content is getting less of an editorial review than it has in the past—I do think there could be value in these kinds of tools.”

Author: Gilad Edelman
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

OJ Simpson, Las Vegas Strip hotel settle defamation case

Attorneys for the corporation had argued the former football star could not be defamed because his reputation was already tarnished by his criminal and civil trials.

O.J. Simpson and a Las Vegas hotel-casino have settled a lawsuit alleging that unnamed employees defamed Simpson by telling a celebrity news site he had been banned from the property in November 2017 for being drunk and disruptive.

Simpson’s attorney, Malcolm LaVergne, declined Thursday to comment about the agreement reached with Nevada Property 1 LLC, corporate owner of The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
“The matter has been resolved,” LaVergne said.
A spokeswoman for the Cosmopolitan declined immediate comment.
Attorneys for the corporation had argued the former football star could not be defamed because his reputation was already tarnished by his criminal and civil trials in the deaths of his ex-wife and her friend in Los Angeles decades ago and his conviction and imprisonment in Nevada in a 2007 armed robbery case.
LaVergne had raised the specter of racial bias by hotel officials.
RELATED: 25 years after murders, OJ says ‘Life is fine’
RELATED: OJ Simpson freed from Nevada prison after serving 9 years
Terms were not made public in the court dismissal filed March 31 in Clark County District Court. It said both sides agreed to bear their own legal costs and fees.
Simpson, now 73, is on parole in Nevada and living in a gated golf course community following his release from prison in July 2017. He had served nine years for armed robbery, kidnapping and assault with a weapon.
His complaint against the Cosmopolitan acknowledged that Simpson was given notice, after spending several hours with two friends at a steakhouse and a lounge, that he was prohibited from returning to the property. He said he was never given a reason.
Simpson denied in his lawsuit that he was “belligerent,” broke glass or damaged property.
LaVergne said at the time his client’s reputation was damaged by accounts cited in a TMZ report that Simpson “was drunk and became disruptive” at a resort bar.
TMZ was not a defendant in the lawsuit.
Simpson went to prison after being convicted in Las Vegas in October 2008 of leading five men, including two with guns, in an ill-fated confrontation with two collectibles dealers and a go-between in a cramped room at an off-Strip casino-hotel.
Simpson always maintained he was trying to retrieve personal mementoes stolen from him following his 1995 acquittal in the killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles.
He said family photos and other items disappeared before he was found liable in civil court in February 1997 and ordered to pay $ 33.5 million to the Brown and Goldman estates.

Journalist Cleared of Defamation Charge Revives India’s #MeToo

The harassment incident occurred when she was 23, during an interview for a job with The Asian Age — a then-new publication founded by Mr. Akbar, who was then famous for his reporting on the 1992 destruction of the Babri mosque[1].

For the job interview, Mr. Akbar asked Ms. Ramani to come to his room at the Oberoi, an upscale hotel on Mumbai’s seafront, according to her account in Vogue India. He offered her alcohol, serenaded her with old Hindi songs and invited her to sit next to him on a bed that had been turned down for the night, she said.

Despite the uncomfortable interview, Ms. Ramani accepted a job with The Asian Age. She didn’t tell her parents about the incident, knowing they would tell her to forget her journalism career.

“It was like we were that generation that was going out to work, so maybe we figure this is part of the thing we have to deal with in the workplace, and we will have to deal with it, rather than anyone else helping us through this,” she said.

The 1990s, when Ms. Ramani started that first job, brought a wave of women entering India’s professional world. The Supreme Court’s Vishaka guidelines in 1997 defined and explicitly prohibited sexual harassment at work. But these same guidelines, intended to support women, were often met with a deeply entrenched cultural code of silence around sexual harassment and assault. In other words, they were ignored. Among men, they also bred resentment of women in the workplace.

Little changed for women at work until 2013, when India passed the Prevention of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, or POSH, Act, which requires employers to set up in-house committees with the powers of a civil court to investigate complaints and suggest remedies. The law was designed to make it easier for women to raise concerns and to save women the difficulty and cost of seeking help through India’s already clogged judicial system, where cases can linger for years or even decades.

The numbers of complaints rose by 45 percent from 2014 to 2017, according to the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


  1. ^ 1992 destruction of the Babri mosque (www.nytimes.com)

Emily Schmall