The robot as cub reporter: law's emerging role in cognitive journalism


  • Elizabeth Anne Kirley Osgoode Hall Law School York University


Today's journalist is immersed in news production that no longer treats robot-written news as a mere reference tool. Major news corporations are reshaping the journalism business to reflect the increasingly dominant role of algorithms and its consequent decrease in human curation. With data so integral to today's news storytelling and the arrival of machines that are learning to 'sense, think and act' like their creators, we are called to deliberate on the legitimacy of law to address human risks and responsibilities when humans are harmed physically, socially, financially or professionally. This paper argues that we are entering the age of cognitive journalism that affects the legal personhood question and examines policy initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic for legal norms to inform a law for machines that learn from mistakes and teach other machines. Legal issues raised by driverless cars, human cloning, drones and nanotechnology are examined for what they can offer to an emerging law of the robot. The paper concludes with a call for research that will bring a more nuanced understanding of the legitimate place of law in cognitive journalism.

Keywords: Data journalism; robotics; cognitive journalism; disruptive innovation; human-machine interactions; nanotechnology

Author Biography

Elizabeth Anne Kirley, Osgoode Hall Law School York University

PhD Osgoode Hall Law School, York University Toronto; Research Fellow, Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime & Security (2015-16), 







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