Chatbot Now Offers Legal Advice For Refugees Seeking Asylum

By Nethani Palmani | Mar 10, 2017 10:27 AM EST

A Stanford University student who designed a Facebook chatbot has updated the technology to offer free legal advice to refugees seeking asylum. The chatbot was originally created to automate the appeal of parking tickets.

Joshua Browder, the creator of the Facebook chatbot DoNotPay, has helped overturn more than 160,000 parking tickets. "I originally started with parking tickets and delayed fights and all sorts of trivial consumer rights issues. But then I began to be approached by these nonprofits and lawyers who said the idea of automating legal services is bigger than just a few parking fines," Browder said.

The "robot lawyer" uses Facebook Messenger to gather information about a case before responding with advice and legal documents. In the US and Canada, the chatbot helps refugees to complete immigration applications, while in the UK, it aids asylum seekers in obtaining financial support from the government, according to the Guardian.

The chatbot was developed with the help of lawyers from each of these countries. Once the intelligence identifies the user's claim of asylum, it takes note of hundreds of details and automatically fills in a completed immigration application.

Most essentially, all the questions the chatbot asks are in plain English and the feedback that appears during the conversation are generated by artificial intelligence. The bot also suggests ways the asylum seeker can answer questions to maximize their chances of having applications accepted, according to BBC News. In addition to a completed application, a refugee also receives submission instructions specific to location, details of additional documentation needed, and resources for further help.

The lawyer robot is currently available via the Facebook Messenger app, accessible to Android and Apple device users. Browder hopes to extend the chatbox service out to more languages and apps in the future, including Whatsapp.

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