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Misinformation and disinformation are rampant on the internet (and particularly on social media).
The examples go on and on: deceptive tactics to interfere with U.S. elections, fake coronavirus cures, leading politicians engaging in trafficking rings. And the spate of more benign ones, too: The death of beloved celebrities, a 29-foot-long crocodile chilling in a Maine lake, Florida banning “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The World Economic Forum ranks the spread of misinformation and fake news among the world’s top global risks. Added to this is the fact that disinformation is estimated to cost the global economy $78 billion a year.
“The internet today is the wild west,” said Glen Wise, CEO of trust and safety operations platform Cinder. “From hate groups to fraud rings to state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, people live in a state of perpetual fear and distrust, and the pressure is mounting on digital platforms to effect change.”
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The problem, he noted, is that trust and safety teams lack proper tools to manage the complexity of a given internet abuse case and investigation at scale. To help combat this, Cinder today emerged from stealth with its misinformation-thwarting platform backed by $14 million in funding.
“When companies have to make a decision on the abuse facing their platform, it’s incredibly scattered,” said Wise. “It’s so complex because of the context needed to make a decision.”
Inspired by Meta
Wise, a former Meta engineer and cyber analyst for the U.S. government, developed the Cinder platform with Phil Brennan, Brian Fishman and Declan Cummings. He explained that the founding team was responsible for transforming the way Meta mitigates threats, including fighting hate groups, terrorist attacks, and state-sponsored disinformation campaigns.
“But this is not just a Meta or Twitter problem,” said Wise. “Every organization understands they are vulnerable to threats, and will be held accountable not only by their users, but also increasingly by government regulators.”
While Meta had the ability to support a strong trust and safety team, the fact is that many others don’t, he said.
This often forces investigators to sort through several different tools: One vital piece of information buried in one database, another hidden away in a third-party tool, yet another tucked away in a spreadsheet. Furthermore, data within those can be inconsistent or inaccurate.
“We want to make sure that people making the really tough calls have all the data necessary, and under a single pane of glass,” said Wise. “It’s the right data together in the right context.”
Centralizing trust and safety
Cinder helps to centralize the trust and safety decision-making process by allowing reviewers and investigators access to appropriate, relevant data — whether user-generated, metadata or off-platform information, said Wise. The company manages trust and safety operations, including policy setting, case and investigation management, moderation and reviews, and risk monitoring and compliance.
The platform has two main use cases, Wise explained. The first provides for simple content moderation: When something comes in and needs a quick assessment. For instance, when a dubious chat comes in, investigators require context on past chats or info around what the user wrote or altered.
On the other end of the spectrum, the platform enables in-depth investigations, such as when an organization wants to determine the presence of a terrorist group. Teams can launch a full case and make queries around emails, usernames, texts and other information sources, said Wise.
Cinder’s main differentiator, he said, is the fact that it allows organizations to make decisions based on their own guidelines, “not anyone else’s.”
Ultimately, it’s important that organizations are “intentional around what they do or do not allow on their platforms,” said 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 that enterprises, especially younger ones, have “a pretty generic or broad set of guidelines.” But they shouldn’t be afraid to be “opinionated” about what they want to allow or not allow, he emphasized.
For example, to combat money laundering, they can set requirements for countries or entities they won’t do business with. He pointed to the U.K. concept of “legal but harmful,” where situations require much more interpretation.
Increased regulation from the U.S., Europe and the U.K. are further driving investigations like the ones Cinder aims to support, he said, making transparency and consistency even more critical.
“There’s regulation on the horizon,” said Wise, “and companies are really worried about it.”
Streamlining processes, measuring impact
According to Wise, Cinder’s platform enables trust and safety teams these capabilities:
- Define and codify policies to help enable better decision-making, provide richer datasets for detection training, and increase reliability of metrics and compliance efforts.
- Streamline decision-making by enabling structured workflows and investigations in a single platform. New policies can be launched, teams assigned, intelligence integrated and custom workflows initiated without writing any code.
- Measure impact: Through customizable metrics and dashboarding, teams can get the vision needed to make more confident decisions and take faster actions. To aid in future transparency efforts, Cinder allows organizations full access to decision-making data, whether through dashboarding 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 the right security, its beauty will fade.”
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