#MeToo bots can surveil your email

The Week Staff

Here are three of the week's top pieces of business insight, gathered from around the web:

Free File flies free
"Finding free online tax filing should be easier this year for millions of Americans," said Justin Elliott and Paul Kiel at ProPublica. The IRS announced last week that it is lifting its "years-old prohibition on creating its own online filing system" that could compete with software like Turbotax. ProPublica reported last year that "the industry, led by TurboTax maker Intuit, has long misled taxpayers who are eligible to file for free into paying" while lobbying the IRS against creating its own system. Now all companies will have to "standardize the naming convention of their Free File version as 'IRS Free File program'" so as not to confuse customers. The agency also is barring companies from "engaging in any practice" that blocks their Free File versions from showing up on search engine results.

The end of the shared lunch
What happened to the workday lunch break? asked Sarah Holder at CityLab. "If the Mad Men–era power lunch was a sluggish male display of decadence, today's is a race-the-clock exercise in brutal efficiency." Maybe it's because urban professionals today "lack the expense accounts, disposable income, and stretchy sense of time" of previous worker generations, but an entire ecosystem of startups and food dispensaries has emerged to take advantage. One such company, Sweetgreen, is installing kiosks in offices so workers can "order online and the next day, the biodegradable bowl of Kale Caesar will materialize frictionlessly by lunchtime." Lunch startups like Meal​Pal have cut the process of going out and getting a takeout meal to 15 minutes or less — as long as you are willing to eat alone at your desk.

#MeToo bots can surveil your email
Programmers are developing artificial intelligence bots that can scan workplace emails for abusive language, said Isabel Woodford at The Guardian. "Known as #MeTooBots," they run on an algorithm "trained to identify potential bullying, including sexual harassment, in company documents, emails, and chat." Anything identified as being "potentially problematic" is then sent to a lawyer or human resources. Similar technology can be used in a lawsuit to "scour large volumes of digital communications to fight harassment claims." However, while AI currently can be "taught to look for specific triggers," it's unable to pick up on cultural or "unique interpersonal dynamics," increasing the risk that the bots might flag too little or too much.

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