A chatbot that aims to tackle workplace harassment

Spot chatbot
The team behind Spot

There are many hurdles when it comes to reporting workplace harassment and discrimination. A new AI-powered chatbot has been invented to make it easier for employees to report when they have been treated improperly, without fear of retaliation.

The new tool, named Spot, was created by Dr Julia Shaw alongside two engineers (formerly of Evernote) Dylan Marriott and Daniel Nicolae.

The online chatbot asks victims of harassment about their experiences, using the so-called cognitive interview technique. It asks when and where an experience of harassment happened, who did it, and whether there were any witnesses. The answers can be anonymous, or include names. Shaw’s team keeps the information on their system for up to 30 days before deleting it, in case a victim wants to come back for it.

“It’s incredibly easy to forget things or misremember them,” added Shaw, “which is why it’s important to record them when the memories are fresh.”

When a user has spent about 10 minutes or more talking to the bot, Spot will collate their answers into a PDF, with a formal-looking cover sheet, that can be emailed to HR.

Shaw argues that in these sensitive situations, it’s important to know “what not to ask,” as subjective comments could lead the employee to overthink or misinterpret an incident. The basis for a solid cognitive interview is to ask practical and neutral questions, explains Shaw. What’s more, employees may also feel more comfortable when chatting with a bot.

“A bot can’t judge and can’t have unconscious bias,” said Shaw. “They are programmed to ask specific questions.”

Read more about Spot via a recent VentureBeat article.