Does reputation matter?
What happens when a supreme court plugs MT into its website?
Check out the images below:
Remember we are talking about Greece’s most important court. Not just any old court.
Note that the court’s full and proper name already appears on its website in English.
It’s the MT plug-in that consistently gets it wrong.
The versions that appear in the reel are just some of the many different variants that it comes up with.
Words in law matter – even translated words
Critics will say, he’s going on again about MT, and that the translation is provided for information purposes only so there’s nothing to worry about.
Critics will also say that the court is offering the public a service, doing us a favour.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact I’d say it’s a disservice. To reiterate: Words in law matter – even translated words
If the name of the court (something simple and straightforward) can’t be got consistently right, what does that say about the rest of the content generated?
Can anyone reading the machine-generated output think this is useful or helpful to them in any way?
When is a “service” not a service?
Let’s delve a little deeper into the idea that this is a service.
If you boil things down, a service is something you seek out, you pay for (typically) and which adds value.
A service involves doing something for someone that is valued.
It involves applying skill, competence and expertise for the benefit of another.
Providing automatically-translated versions of court judgments, while well-intentioned, hardly meets those requirements.
It also raises several important legal policy and access to justice considerations.
Even if such translations are labelled as “for information purposes only” (often disclaimers like that are missing) and are viewed by some as better than no translation at all, there are valid counterarguments to consider:
Legal and Ethical Responsibility: Courts have a responsibility to ensure that their communications are clear, accurate, and accessible in the language of the court.
Why should that be any different if the court opts to provide translations?
Offering substandard translations could be seen as neglecting this responsibility, potentially undermining public trust in the judicial system.
Reliance and Legal Consequences: Relying on machine translations for legal decision-making, even when they are marked as “for information purposes only,” poses significant risks, especially for those without access to professional translation services.
Court judgments, like other legal documents, are filled with complex terminology and nuanced language that machine translation often fails to accurately capture.
This can lead to misinterpretations about legal rights, obligations, and the judgment’s implications, resulting in incorrect decisions or unnecessary time and expense spent consulting legal advisors to correct misunderstandings.
Equal Access to Justice: Access to justice implies that everyone, regardless of language proficiency, should have equal access to legal information.
By providing low-quality translations, non-native speakers are disadvantaged, potentially violating the principle of equality before the law.
To address these issues, several recommendations could be considered:
Clear Disclaimers and Guidance: Provide clear disclaimers about the limitations of machine translations and guiding individuals to seek professional translation or legal advice for critical matters.
Improving Translation Quality: Invest in higher-quality translation services, potentially combining machine translation with human review and editing, to ensure accuracy.
Consult with experts in legal translation: Develop a policy for your legal translations that helps reduce your exposure to reputational risk