OLD Media Moves

How artificial intelligence from Quartz helped reporters with the Mauritius Leaks

July 25, 2019

Posted by Chris Roush


Jeremy B. Merrill of Quartz writes about how the financial news site’s artificial intelligence tools helped reporters dig through documents that showed how multinational companies avoided paying taxes when they do business in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

Merrill writes, “To support the reporters working on the project, Quartz built a machine-learning model that identifies similar documents among a set. For instance, when reporters found one particularly useful business form or tax filing on their own, the model could help them find others like it. Suddenly, the vast array of documents was a lot more manageable, and the journalists were able to complete their reporting and publish their findings with dozens of news organizations starting today.

“The project, dubbed the Mauritius Leaks, involved 54 journalists around the world secretly coordinating online over many months in an encrypted workspace built by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which received the original leak. The most important work was done by human reporters making sense of the documents and uncovering the magnitude of corporate tax-avoidance, including our Quartz colleagues Max de Haldevang, Justin Rohrlich, and Abdi Latif Dahir, who wrote about Bob Geldof’s African investment fund, Sequoia Capital, and more.

“Our AI aided the investigation by applying a journalist’s human judgment identifying a particular kind of document—like a tax return or a business plan—across the entire document trove. While the AI didn’t do anything a human couldn’t do (after all, knowledgeable journalists know what a tax return looks like), it did the job a lot faster, freeing humans to do other tasks.”

Read more here.

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