P Xenos and M Bacina
Chinese Courts using blockchain and AI to settle millions of cases
China’s smart courts are reportedly applying a variety of innovative technologies including blockchain and artificial intelligence to decide on millions of legal cases.
In what are referred to as “courts of the future”, citizens are able to communicate with non-human, virtual, AI-powered judges in front of multiple screens, negating the need for them to physically appear in court.
The system also creates the possibility for citizens to receive their court decisions by text or through major messaging services.
In 2017, the Eastern city of Hangzhou established the world's first smart internet court. China has since launched similar operations in the cities of Beijing and Guangzhou. Zhang Wen, president of the Beijing Internet Court, reportedly said at the time:
In the current use of AI as an assistant to make rulings, efficiency is prioritized over accuracy. A human judge is ultimately responsible for the fair ruling. [...] But we are heading toward a future when we can see an AI judge sitting at the podium.
It was recently reported in China's official Xinhua news agency that more than 3.1 million Chinese litigation matters from March to October of this year were settled through the blockchain and AI-powered smart internet courts.
Registered users of the smart courts have completed 3.14 million litigation "activities" through a smart court application from March to October, according to a white paper titled "Chinese Courts and Internet Judiciary," released by the Supreme People's Court (SPC).
The white paper reported that 1.16 million people and 73,200 lawyers have registered in smart courts, showcasing China's monumental efforts in building online judiciary courts through utilizing big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain.
In September of last year, China’s Supreme Court ruled that evidence authenticated with blockchain technology is binding in legal disputes. The Supreme Court declared that:
Internet courts shall recognize digital data that are submitted as evidence if relevant parties collected and stored these data via blockchain with digital signatures, reliable timestamps and hash value verification or via a digital deposition platform, and can prove the authenticity of such technology used.
While there have been no such developments in Australia, companies such as Data61 (one of the world’s top blockchain research organisations) have been relentless in their pursuit for greater digital integration into our judicial system, paving potential pathways for greater access to justice and efficiency.