China has developed an artificial intelligence prosecutor that can charge people with crimes with more than 97 per cent accuracy, researchers claim.
The dystopian machine can identify ‘dissent’ against the state and suggest sentences for supposed criminals, removing people from the prosecution process.4:04 / 5:30null
There are already fears the system could be weaponised by the Chinese Communist Party with human prosecutors concerned about who would take responsibility for the AI’s decisions.
The tool can file a charge based on a verbal description of the case and was built and tested by the Shanghai Pudong People’s Procuratorate, the biggest and busiest district prosecution office in China.
The AI would allow human prosecutors to ease their workload and allow them to only focus on the more complex cases, the project’s lead scientist Professor Shi Yong said.
The system can run on a standard desktop computer and would press charges based on 1,000 ‘traits’ from the human-generated case description text, the South China Morning Post reported.
It was ‘trained’ using 17,000 real life cases from 2015 to 2020 and is able to identify and press charges for the eight most common crimes in Shanghai.
These include ‘provoking trouble’ – a term used to stifle dissent in China, credit card fraud, gambling crimes, dangerous driving, theft, fraud, intentional injury and obstructing official duties.
Soon the AI prosecutor will be able to recognise more types of crime and file multiple charges against one suspect once it is upgraded.
Shi said in a paper published in the Management Review journal: ‘The system can replace prosecutors in the decision-making process to a certain extent.’
Some AI technology already exists in law enforcement but this would be the first time it is involved in pressing charges.
In Germany, image recognition and digital forensics are used to help with caseloads, while China uses a tool known as System 206 to evaluate evidence, a suspect’s potential danger and the conditions for arrest.
But the system has no role in the decision-making process and does not suggest sentences.
One prosecutor in Guanghzhou says he has concerns about the new technology.
He said: ‘The accuracy of 97 per cent may be high from a technological point of view, but there will always be a chance of a mistake.
‘Who will take responsibility when it happens? The prosecutor, the machine or the designer of the algorithm?’
He added that many human prosecutors will not want computers interfering in their work.
‘AI may help detect a mistake, but it cannot replace humans in making a decision,’ the prosecutor said.
There are also fears it will fail to keep up with changing social standards and could be weaponised by the state.
The Chinese government is increasingly relying on AI to boost its productivity, with machines already in place to crack down on corruption and increase state control.
661000China develops AI ‘prosecutor’ that can identify ‘dissent’ and press charges for common crimes