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Towards Crowdsourced Online Dispute Resolution

Using crowdsourcing for solving disputes is a subject that has not been discussed in many scientific publications. However, since Crowdsourced Online Dispute Resolution (CODR) provides a cheap, fast, and democratic dispute resolution, it has a potential that needs to be explored scientifically. How should eBay solve otherwise 60 millions disputes per year? Building a CODR platform with the convenience and attractiveness of other collective intelligence systems, such as Wikipedia, YouTube, and Google, may cause many variants of traditional forms of dispute resolution fading away. In order to shed more light on CODR, the present contribution defines this new type of dispute resolution, describes the present state of play, and builds a theoretical framework by investigating CODR building blocks. Although the paper provides only the start of a profound discussion, it shows introductory explorations of the key theoretical issues involved in CODR.

Ever since the creation of Google, there has been a steady increase in the number of websites using “the wisdom of the crowd”. Wikipedia and the Amazon’s Mechanical Turk are just two telling examples. At present, outsourcing certain tasks to large groups of people is easy, even for a layman. Yet, any attempt to define this phenomenon has become one of the most challenging ventures of the last five years. For the purpose of this contribution, we will call this phenomenon crowdsourcing and define it as it is defined by Surowiecki (2006).

“Crowdsourcing is (1) the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and (2) outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call” (Surowiecki, 2006).
While crowdsourcing is often used in many different areas, its use in the area of law is not very popular. At present, there are only a couple of websites providing Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) that uses crowdsourcing as a part of the dispute resolution process. We call this new form of dispute resolution: Crowdsourced Online Dispute Resolution (CODR). Since, up to this moment, CODR has not been discussed scientifically, the present paper aims to clarify this issue by giving a definition of CODR (Section 2), discussing the current state of play of CODR (Section 3) and the building blocks of CODR (Section 4). Finally, we provide a conclusion (Section 5).
2. Defining CODR
For our definition of the term CODR, we use the definition of ODR as provided by Kaufmann-Kohler and Schultz (2004).
“ODR is a broad term that encompasses forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and court proceedings which use internet as a part of the dispute resolution process” (Kaufmann-Kohler and Schultz, 2004, p.7).
On the basis of this definition, we provide the following definition of CODR.
CODR is a term that encompasses some forms of ADR and court proceedings using internet and crowdsourcing as parts of the dispute resolution process.
To clarify CODR more precisely, we need also to delineate the crowd that participates in CODR. We define it as follows.
The crowd is a (generally large) group of people who participates in the dispute resolution process through an open call.
Here, some clarifications need to be made on the term “open call”. In our view, two requirements must be met to classify a call as “open”. The first requirement is that everyone from the online community where the call is published should be entitled to participate in CODR if she meets certain conditions.1 For instance, a condition can be that only users of a website who have been registered for a certain time can participate in CODR, as it is the case at the eBay’s Community Review Forum ( A second condition can be that only the first n members of the crowd (e.g., n = 30) can participate in CODR.2
The second requirement for classification of a call as “open” is that it should be published or made available in such a way that every member of the online community where the open call is published should be able to find information about it.

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Originally published here: Van den Herik, Jaap and Dimov, Daniel, Towards Crowdsourced Online Dispute Resolution (September 19, 2011). LAW ACROSS NATIONS: GOVERNANCE, POLICY & STATUTES, pp. 244-257, International Association of IT Lawyers (IAITL), September 2011. Available at SSRN:


Daniel Dimov

Daniel Dimov (Master's Degree in European Law , Radboud University Nijmegen; Master's Degree in Law, University of Ruse, Ruse, Bulgaria) is currently on traineeship at the European Commission in Brussels. He is expected to receive his PhD in 2012 at the Centre for Law in the Information Society, Leiden University, the Netherlands. MORE >


Jaap Van den Herik

Prof. Dr. Jaap van den Herik is a Professor of Law and Computer Science at the Faculty of Law of the Universiteit Leiden, Leiden and Professor of Computer Science at the Faculty of Humanities of Tilburg University, Tilburg. MORE >

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