Phrasee’s AI Ethics Policy

Instituted 30 July 2018

Artificial Intelligence sometimes gets a bad rap… because it can be used for good… but it can also be used for evil.

We at Phrasee believe that AI should be used for good. As one of the fastest-growing AI companies in the world, we believe it’s our responsibility to put our money where our mouth is.

No one has done what we’re doing at Phrasee before, so there are no obvious standards for us to follow. And as widespread use of AI is such a new thing, there aren’t many examples for us to learn from. So, we’re just going to do what we feel is right – and be open and transparent about it.

Our goal isn’t to build The Terminator, or “General AI”. Our goal is to give every marketing team in the world the chance to have a machine-powered copywriter that gets results.

Following are the ethics that we’ve learned since founding Phrasee in 2015. Have we always been perfect? Nope, we are but humans! So that’s why we’re putting this policy in place. As our business expands, we need to ensure that our ethical beliefs remain steadfast.

We’ve not made any wide-reaching, ambiguous statements like “don’t be evil”. We believe that our ethics policy needs to be practical, specific and explicit. Therefore, we’ve decided to outline these policies, with examples where possible.

Things we won’t do:

  1. We won’t use data to target vulnerable populations.

    It’s possible, for example, that a machine learning algorithm could identify bi-polar people about to enter a mania phase… and then suggest you target them with extravagant product offers. Or, say someone has recently gone through a breakup, or worse, a bereavement, and people used AI to exploit their emotional state. We do not believe using AI to these ends is ethical. We believe that even though a machine’s prediction may be right, that doesn’t mean we should use it to exploit people. We will NEVER use data like this.

  2. We won’t promote the use of negative emotions to exploit people.

    Some people and companies suggest selecting messages that explicitly focus on “fear, guilt and anxiety.” We believe that people shouldn’t be treated like this. We, as marketers, shouldn’t make people feel fearful, guilty and anxious; instead, we should focus on the positive aspects of our brands. We will NEVER encourage our customers to use negative emotions to target their consumers.

  3. We will not work with customers whose values don’t align with ours.

    In the past we have actively turned down working with companies that we believe are harmful to society or have unscrupulous business models. All potential customers go through a review process to make sure their ethics align with ours. We will not work with: gun & weapon retailers, political parties or any company that promotes hate speech or the marginalisation of segments of society. The individuals who work for these types of organisations are probably nice people, and we’d love to work with you when you switch industries. But for now, it’s not for us.

Things we will do:

  1. Take action to avoid prejudice and bias.

    First off, we ensure our team itself is diverse. Phrasee is gender balanced, has staff members from many countries around the world, many socio-economic profiles, ages, sexual orientations, ethnic backgrounds and political beliefs. Secondly, we actively develop methods to identify and remove prejudice from our data sets. This ensures our models are generalised, and any small amount of biased data is washed out during training.

  2. Be open about what our AI does.

    We use AI to do two very specific tasks: to generate human-sounding, brand-compliant marketing copy, and to predict the performance of that copy in the wild. We do not use AI for other purposes, and if/when we do, we will be open about it. Our customers deserve to know what we do, and that we aren’t hiding any secret, evil development schemes.

  3. We will not change this policy. We will monitor it and add to it when required.

    We view this ethics policy like the US Constitution. So, the core text will not change. However, ethics are not static, and adapt over time. The world around us changes. When our policy needs to be amended, we will transparently add amendments at the end of the document, dated and with reasons. This way you can always see where we stand, and what we stand for.

Have a question? Contact us.