from the DoNotTest-DoNotPay dept
Well, a lot has happened since I first started looking into the “World’s First Robot Lawyer,” from DoNotPay. First, Joshua Browder, DoNotPay’s CEO, reached out to me via direct message (DM) and told me he would get me access to my documents by 2 PM the next day – Tuesday, January 24th – saying that the delay was caused by my account being locked for “inauthentic activity,” a term he did not explain or define. Then, Josh claimed he was going to pull out of the industry entirely, canceling his courtroom stunt and saying he would disable all the legal tools on DoNotPay.com. He said he was doing it because it was a distraction, but the fact that he cited exactly the same two documents that I was waiting to receive seemed like a hell of a coincidence.
But plus ça change, plus c’est la même fucking chose, as the poet says. Here’s what hasn’t changed: I still don’t have my documents, and Josh still hasn’t answered the questions I asked him like he said I would.
In his direct message, Josh said he would be willing to answer any questions I asked in good faith. I took him at his word, and responded to the email he sent me announcing his pullout with the following four questions:
- Can you describe for me the process DoNotPay used to identify the relevant law for a demand letter? (Cf. “Based on your location, DoNotPay will generate a formal demand letter on your behalf with the most relevant state legislation regarding defamation,” from here: https://web.archive.org/web/20230127063724/https://donotpay.com/learn/cease-and-desist-order/)
- Were humans involved in the generation of any client documents described by anything under your “Legal Tools” section? I don’t mean the creation of the templates, etc., I mean in the production of a document based on client responses to prompts.
- Are the articles in the “Learn” section of your website written by ChatGPT or equivalent, or by humans?
- Who signed the subpoena for the officer in the traffic case that was referenced in your now-deleted tweet?
I asked all these questions in good faith, and for good reasons. Josh represents — over and over and over and over again — that DoNotPay features a robot lawyer with artificial intelligence, going so far as to say that it uses AI instead of “human knowledge.” The sole document I got was one that didn’t make any kind of promise of customization or that it would contain “the most” relevant legislation for anything; the ones that did require that kind of analysis were the ones that got hung up in multi-hour deadlines and never ultimately delivered. Given how much weight he puts on these claims, I think it’s fair to interrogate and test them.
The articles, or “blog posts” as Josh calls them, are a slightly different situation. There are a TON of them, and they are all published without dates or bylines. But many of those articles have significant errors, both legal and factual, and if someone relied upon them, they could be in big trouble. And while I didn’t actually expect him to answer the question about the subpoena, he opened the door by bragging about it in the first place, as far as I’m concerned.
(Only two sentences in this screenshot above are completely accurate. I’m not going to represent to you which two they are, because I am not a lawyer.)
This email, to my great disappointment, went completely ignored.
It wasn’t because he was too busy taking down all his bots, either. On Thursday night, I logged back into the site to check, and discovered that all the prompts I had accessed before were still available, save the two that Josh mentioned specifically in his tweet — the defamation demand letter and the divorce settlement. But even those were still being advertised; every “blog post” on the site has a signup teaser in it advertising access to the site’s legal and other services with no sign that they’re inaccessible until after DoNotPay has your money. One particularly egregious blog post that advertised “free legal advice” to those looking for help navigating the immigration process to become American citizens finally pushed me over the edge, and so I pinged Josh to remind him that I was still waiting for my documents and an answer to my questions, let that sit for a bit, and then started another thread about all the ways he was being less than forthright with the truth. In the course of writing that thread, I discovered that I was suddenly banned from the site; not only could I not log in, but any attempts to do so gave me an error message that read merely “something went wrong.”
It took Josh less than an hour to get back to me via DM, informing me that my money had been completely refunded and complaining that I was lying about the “bots” still being up, although he later admitted that only 7 bots had come down in the previous 36 hours (out of an advertised 1,000):
When I told him I had tested them myself and even generated new documents and cases, he demanded “Was your usage authentic?” I responded “It certainly complied with every provision of the Terms of Service.” At this point, Josh disappeared from the conversation.
After this pause had stretched out for a while, something was kind of nagging at me. I went back and looked at that question and answer again and thought “what is it about the Terms of Service that suddenly had him needing to leave immediately?”
By sheer coincidence, someone — not me (at least I don’t think so) — had archived the DoNotPay Terms of Service just about exactly when I started tweeting my thread, so I know exactly what they said then.
It also meant that I could spot exactly what had changed between that time and this one, a mere two hours later: Josh added a clause to the TOS prohibiting users from testing the website prior to using it in a live dispute.
If you can’t see that, right after I told him I was not violating his terms, he appeared to add this to his terms:
You represent that any dispute or request submitted is an authentic problem you are having. You are responsible for any damages to DoNotPay or others from fake, inauthentic or test disputes.
So now “test” disputes violate the terms?
This change was made after he banned me, without any warning. He claims he told me to “keep it real,” but he absolutely did not, and his claim that I “triggered his anti-spam” by making 10 or 15 new cases seems to run against his site’s promises that one can create an “unlimited number of documents.”
He didn’t answer my questions outside of saying “no the letters aren’t being hand typed out and no we didn’t write them,” which… didn’t answer my questions in the slightest. And then he blocked me.
So there you go. Joshua Browder, CEO of DoNotPay.com, would rather block me, ban my account, retcon his terms of service to disallow any test usage at all, and claim to pull out of the “Legal Services” industry that his site is PLASTERED with branding for, rather than show me the two documents I generated and tried to buy.
I wonder what he doesn’t want me to see?