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Misinformation and disinformation are rampant on the internet (and especially on social media).
The examples go on and on: deceptive tactics to disrupt the US election, fake coronavirus drugs, leading politicians engaged in human trafficking. And the wave of more benign ones too: the deaths of beloved celebrities, a 29-meter-long crocodile chilling out in a Maine lakeFlorida prohibit “To kill a mockingbird.”
The World Economic Forum ranks the spread of disinformation and fake news among those of the world greatest global risks. In addition, disinformation is estimated to cost the global economy $78 billion a year.
“Today’s internet is the wild west,” said Glen Wise, CEO of trust and safety operations platform Cinder. “From hate groups to scam networks to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, people live in a state of perpetual fear and distrust, and the pressure on digital platforms to effect change is mounting.”
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The problem, he noted, is that trust and security teams don’t have the right tools to manage the complexities of a given large-scale Internet abuse case and investigation. To help combat this, Cinder emerged from stealth today with its disinformation thwarting platform backed by $14 million in funding.
“When companies have to make a decision about the abuse their platform faces, it’s incredibly fragmented,” says Wise. “It’s so complex because of the context it takes to make a decision.”
Wise, a former Meta engineer and cyber analyst for the US government, developed the Cinder platform with Phil Brennan, Brian Fishman, and Declan Cummings. He explained that the founding team was responsible for transforming the road meta mitigates threats, including countering hate groups, terrorist attacks, and state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.
“But this isn’t just a Meta or Twitter problem,” Wise said. “Every organization understands that they are vulnerable to threats and will be held accountable not only by their users, but increasingly by government regulators.”
While Meta had the ability to support a strong trust and security team, the fact is that many others don’t, he said.
This often forces researchers to sift through different tools: a vital piece of information buried in one database, another hidden in a third-party tool, and yet another tucked away in a spreadsheet. In addition, data contained therein may be inconsistent or inaccurate.
“We want to make sure people making the really tough calls have all the data they need, and under a single pane of glass,” said Wise. “It is the right data together in the right context.”
Centralize trust and security
Cinder helps centralize the trust and safety decision-making process by giving reviewers and researchers access to appropriate, relevant data — whether it’s user-generated, metadata, or off-platform information, Wise said. The company manages trust and security operations, including policy making, case and investigation management, moderation and reviews, and risk monitoring and compliance.
The platform has two main use cases, Wise explained. The first allows for easy content moderation: when something comes in and needs a quick review. For example, if a questionable chat comes in, researchers need context about previous chats or information about what the user wrote or changed.
At the other end of the spectrum, the platform enables in-depth investigations, for example when an organization wants to establish the presence of a terrorist group. Teams can launch a full case and ask questions over emails, usernames, text messages and other sources of information, Wise said.
Cinder’s main differentiator, he said, is the fact that it allows organizations to make decisions based on their own guidelines, “not someone else’s.”
Ultimately, it’s important for organizations to be “intentional about what they allow or don’t allow on their platforms,” according to Wise. They must be communicative, transparent and clear about those guidelines. This helps both users and the internal team.
Beyond generic or broad guidelines
Wise said companies, especially younger ones, have “a fairly generic or broad set of guidelines.” But they shouldn’t be afraid to have “an opinion of their own” about what they want to allow or not, he stressed.
To prevent money laundering, they can, for example, impose requirements on countries or entities with which they do not want to do business. He pointed to the British concept of ‘legal but harmful’ where situations require much more interpretation.
Increased regulation from the US, Europe and UK is further propelling investigations like the one Cinder wants to support, he said, making transparency and consistency even more important.
“There’s regulation on the horizon,” said Wise, “and companies are really worried about it.”
Streamline processes, measure impact
According to Wise, Cinder’s platform offers trust and safety teams these capabilities:
- Define and codify policies to enable better decision making, provide richer datasets for detection training, and increase the reliability of statistics and compliance efforts.
- Streamline decision making by enabling structured workflows and investigations on a single platform. New policies can be launched, teams can be assigned, information can be integrated, and custom workflows can be started without having to write any code.
- Measure impact: Through customizable metrics and dashboards, teams can gain the vision they need to make more confident decisions and take actions faster. To aid in future transparency efforts, Cinder gives organizations full access to decision-making data, either through dashboards or through Cinder’s API.
Today’s funding round was led by Accel with participation from Y Combinator.
Accel partner Sara Ittelson commented, “The magic of the Internet is its power to build connections and solve problems. But without proper security, its beauty will fade.”
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Janice has been with businesskinda for 5 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider businesskinda team, Janice seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.