Data shows 7,456 debts were reduced to zero and another 12,524 partially reduced between July last year and March
The Guardian has a number of stories on the Australian Centrelink scandal including, Centrelink scandal: tens of thousands of welfare debts wiped or reduced. The scandal arose when the government introduce changes to a system for calculating overpayment to welfare recipients and clawing it back that removed a lot of the human oversight. The result was lots of miscalculated debts being automatically assigned to some of the most vulnerable. A report, Paying the Price of Welfare Reform, concluded that,
The research concludes that although welfare reform may be leading to cost savings for the Department of Human Services (DHS), substantial costs are being shifted to vulnerable customers and the community services that support them. It is they that are paying the price of welfare reform.
If one considers the system an implementation of artificial intelligence or at least an automated system that makes decisions based on inferences from data, this robodebt case is an example of how bad things can go for lots of vulnerable people. It is a data ethics lesson. (There is a further ethics issue in that the government shared private data of a user to counter criticism of the system.)
Here are some good links on the issue: