Tech Talk with Blackbird.AI CEO Wasim Khaled

To react to a problem, brands and PR pros should measure it, know how widespread it is and understand the authenticity of the chatter. They should know the audience to create a message that resonates. How do you protect your audience against harmful narratives?

Tech Talk with Blackbird.AI CEO Wasim Khaled

What is Blackbird.AI?
Blackbird is an AI-driven, disinformation intelligence platform. We help people understand what's actually happening across the news, social and information landscape. We help them detect and address harmful information risks in all of these sources by putting context behind all of the things that are being said.

Why did you start your company?
In 2017, our CTO Naushad UzZaman and I cofounded the company in Silicon Valley. We felt disinformation is the greatest existential threat of our time. Whether it's with climate change or healthcare, this widespread manipulation of human perception is causing trust in institutions and with one another to plummet. We've seen it getting worse over the last several years and that's not the world we want to experience.

We wanted to have a positive social impact and artificial intelligence technology was something that we could use to address this problem.

How can AI determine misinformation? Don't you need human judgment to ascertain truth from lies?
We look at publicly available social media, message boards, forums, fringe platforms and mainstream platforms, a lot of data sources. What happens when stories that are false spread in such a rapid way? Who is behind it? What are the behaviors? Is something being amplified by a bot, doing things over and over again? Is it acting in a way that is not human?

AI algorithms can do this in a scalable way. The only way to keep up with this disinformation is artificial intelligence or AI technology augmentation. No room of even 10,000 people could keep up with this all the time. We've looked at tens of thousands of events across billions of posts over the last several years. It's about picking up similarities and pattern recognition of harmful campaigns in the past. There are discernible patterns within the networks.

It's not a truth detector. Truth is too subjective. It's not about saying, 'Here's an article or a social post. Is it true or false?' It's not that binary. Most of the time, the big campaigns are 90% truth blended with 10% falsity. So, a binary red or green or good or bad decision really doesn't work very well. We focus on manipulation, malintent. Which communities, influencers or accounts whom no one ever heard of are spreading these stories about executives, brands or your policy?

In September you closed a $10 million Series A funding round and partnered with Weber Shandwick to create a media security center. Can you discuss how brands or PR pros use your technology?
In crisis management, to react to a problem, brands and PR professionals should first measure it, know how widespread it is and understand the authenticity of the chatter. They should know the audience to create a message that resonates. How do you protect your audience against harmful narratives?

Our intelligence platform can help identify the most urgent, toxic, most dangerous information threats, whether they're just emerging on a fringe network, or when they might be reaching a critical mass. It's to help understand, 'What impact is this having on the public and on my audiences? And what do I do about it?' Professionals in reputation management could learn if subtle manipulation might be escalating to widespread public misperception.

For a strategic response, the technology with mapping tools can show where the communities are that might carry your message the furthest and resonate.

Why did you name your company Blackbird.AI?
I read about blackbirds many years ago. They use tools to solve pretty complex problems and puzzles. They have incredible audio and visual memory recall, so they can classify and remember individual faces and voices for years. They communicate by reacting in coordinated swarms against adversaries. They've got really good social intelligence to accomplish certain objectives. All of this just made it very fitting for the type of work we do. And it's pretty good imagery, too.

Wasim Khaled is cofounder and CEO of Blackbird.AI.

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