A New Resource for AI, Litigation and Human Rights

Mozilla

By Mozilla | Jan. 18, 2021 | Fellowships & Awards

Atlas Lab helps human rights defenders, including litigators and activists, better understand how issues like machine learning and algorithmic decision-making are intersecting with human rights enforcement. It's built by Mozilla Fellows Aurum Linh and Jonathan McCully and hosted within the Digital Freedom Fund.


Litigation can play a substantial role in shaping and improving human rights — the decisions made by courts ripple across law, society, and countless individual lives.

Today, as emerging technology like AI systems become pervasive, it’s imperative for relevant litigation to keep pace and ensure these systems are trustworthy. For example: Litigation can determine if the algorithms that score our credit are fair and transparent — or, if they are unjust and opaque. And, litigation can determine if companies’ automated systems hire a diverse range of candidates — or, if they favor the same small demographic.

But in many cases, litigation to keep AI systems fair and transparent is lagging behind. Many lawyers lack the necessary AI expertise and experience. Meanwhile, AI is being developed and deployed at a lightning pace. The consequences of this gap are dire: discrimination, exclusion, surveillance, and more.

Today, Mozilla Fellows Aurum Linh and Jonathan McCully are launching Atlas Lab — an ambitious project to help close the gap between law and tech by educating lawyers and other actors working on the front lines of AI and human rights litigation. Aurum and Jonathan worked on this project through a Mozilla Fellowship, hosted within the Digital Freedom Fund.

Atlas Lab consists of a library of explainer articles on machine learning and litigation, as well as a collection of summaries of court decisions at the intersection of these two worlds.

The explainers are designed to inform lawyers on concepts like machine learning, data cleaning, and other AI-related topics that increasingly show up in high-stakes litigation. Another set of articles are aimed at breaking open the process of litigation itself, providing explainers on legal strategy, human rights law, the courts, and building an evidence base.

Says Linh, a technologist working at the intersection of human rights and the digital ecosystem: “As automated decision making becomes a routine part of our everyday lives, it will also play a role in critical litigation around privacy, labor, migration, and other human rights issues. We need strong precedents to ensure it’s trustworthy. But too often, the lawyers litigating crucial cases are under-resourced. There are too few educational resources to demystify AI systems.”

Linh continues: “Atlas Lab provides lawyers with in-depth guides to strengthen their litigation as well as guides that focus on the process of litigation for technologists and other non-lawyers, building bridges between these two disparate industries.”

"The courts are central to ensuring that basic principles of justice, equity and accountability are not just merely 'signed up to' by governments or companies, but are actually applied and lived in practice," says McCully, the legal adviser to the Digital Freedom Fund, "we have seen how machine learning and similar technologies fuel decisions that have a significant impact on people's lives. Yet, accountability is scarce. We hope that Atlas Lab can encourage those looking to challenge these systems before the courts have some foundational resources that can help them bring a new wave of impactful litigation."

Atlas Lab
Caption: Atlas Lab, https://www.atlaslab.org, an educational resource for lawyers to learn about automated decision making technologies (without having to learn to code) and a resource to cultivate collective strategy and collaboration for AI court cases around the world.


Currently, Atlas Lab covers topics like machine learning models and human rights litigation. In the coming months, Aurum Linh will be organizing an event series focused on the voices of those whose lives have been affected by algorithmic decision making while interfacing with the public sector: the criminal justice system, immigration agencies, and child welfare services. To stay updated, reach out to Atlas Lab on their website and follow them on Twitter and LinkedIn!

More than ever, we need a movement to ensure the internet remains a force for good. Mozilla Fellows are web activists, open-source researchers and scientists, engineers, and technology policy experts who work on the front lines of that movement. Fellows develop new thinking on how to address emerging threats and challenges facing a healthy internet. Learn more at https://foundation.mozilla.org/fellowships/.

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More than ever, we need a movement to ensure the internet remains a force for good. Mozilla Fellows are web activists, open-source researchers and scientists, engineers, and technology policy experts who work on the front lines of that movement. Fellows develop new thinking on how to address emerging threats and challenges facing a healthy internet. Learn more at https://foundation.mozilla.org/fellowships/.