In this AITech Interview, Wasim Khaled, CEO of Blackbird.AI, discusses the role of AI in combating disinformation and protecting organizations.
In this interview with Wasim Khaled, the Co-founder, and CEO of Blackbird, we will delve into the world of disinformation, its impact on organizations, and the role of artificial intelligence in combating this growing threat. Mr. Khaled is a computer scientist with extensive knowledge and experience in information operations, computational propaganda, behavioral science, AI, and their applications to defense, cyber, and risk intelligence. He has been a consultant and advisor to government agencies and Fortune 500 companies on the risks and mitigation of information warfare.
Below are the interview highlights:
Kindly brief us about yourself and your role as the CEO at Blackbird.AI
I am a computer scientist by profession and have studied information operations, computational propaganda, behavioral science, AI, and the applications of these combined disciplines to defense, cyber, and risk intelligence. I have also consulted and advised government agencies and Fortune 500 companies on the risks and mitigation of escalating information warfare.
Our CTO, Dr. Naushad UzZaman, and I co-founded Blackbird.AI as we both felt that disinformation was one of the greatest global threats of our time. As the CEO of Blackbird,
I lead a multidisciplinary team of artificial intelligence, intelligence, and national security experts to ensure that the platform we’re building is at the forefront of combating today’s media and market manipulation.
Please share your source of inspiration for exploring various facets of technology.
Since 2014, I have seen how easily falsehoods and conspiracies spread online and shift human behavior. But there weren’t any tools advanced enough to help organizations keep up or stay ahead of these risks. The basic media monitoring tools available in the market today were built to mainly support marketing and customer support teams for social listening. However, they are insufficient to identify root sources and drivers of malicious disinformation-based threats.
This is why we developed Blackbird, leveraging advanced AI technology to provide customers with actionable insights. From there, our innovation continues to evolve to meet the needs of customers. For instance, Blackbird.AI has just announced RAV3N Copilot, a generative AI-powered solution for Narrative Intelligence and Rapid Risk Reporting that enables unparalleled workflow automation during mission-critical crisis scenarios.
Please brief our audience about Blackbird.AI and give us an overview of its standout solutions.
Blackbird.AI offers new, scalable technologies, empowering public and private sector organizations in APAC to quickly and effectively tackle disinformation. Essentially, our solution transforms reactive crisis management business into a proactive resilience practice and serves as an insurance policy against reputational and financial risk.
For instance, Blackbird’s Constellation Dashboard uses AI at scale to process billions of posts across social media, news, and the dark web to extract five categories of signals that act as a ranking mechanism for harmful information. These five risk signals are:
- Narratives, which are evolving conversations or storylines
- Networks, which are relationships between users and the concepts they share
- Cohorts are communities of like-minded individuals or tribes
- Manipulation, which can distinguish between authentic and inauthentic behavior
- Deception, which are the active hoaxes that can impact user perceptions
We process all five signals in tandem and in real time to generate a composite risk index that can protect and predict harmful narratives before causing reputational damage or manipulating public perception across a wide variety of languages
Having extensive knowledge of the industry can you enlighten our audience about disinformation and misinformation as the next cybersecurity threat that leaders of organizations need to pay attention to?
At Blackbird.ai, we see AI-enabled disinformation as one of the most significant challenges faced by organizations today. Each day we see new risks driven by an emerging breed of bad actors who use sophisticated tradecraft and technologies to drive harmful narratives, impacting organizations, employees, and executives.
With the democratization of AI, access to such technology will no longer be solely in the hands of nation-states or large organizations but available to any fringe group or anyone with an axe to grind. This means that any threat actor can flood the zone across any number of harmful narratives containing misinformation and deep fakes which can then be driven by bot networks. What used to be the purview of a nation-state can now be executed by a lone actor.
In your opinion, what are the ways to prevent disinformation?
There are no ways to prevent disinformation as there will always be actors that are incentivized to create it. The key is early detection and rapid mitigation. Risk and communications teams need to be able to identify toxic narratives before it surfaces and know what to do with the information as part of their mitigation strategy. Speed to insight is key, especially when there is a potential crisis looming.
Often, teams of analysts spend hundreds of hours a week reading 100K+ words a day just to understand the dominant narrative without ever seeing invisible threats like bot activity and anomalous activity. In the words of a client, current methods are like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Organizations need technology that is purpose-built to understand new risks in an evolving digital media ecosystem. Additionally, tapping on advanced technology such as AI can help reduce tedious, manual tasks, and rapidly improve response times.
Once a brand understands the source of its problem, it can then identify how online threats are being spread both on a surface level and under the radar. By understanding the pattern, the company can swiftly identify the channels used to target specific audiences and where they need to focus their efforts so that they can get in front of the narrative or misinformation quickly and effectively.
How important is it to leverage the power of AI in order to boost business performance?
Misinformation and disinformation are among the biggest threats facing organizations today. While AI capabilities can amplify disinformation, it is the only way to drive effective countermeasures at scale. Powered by AI and deep contextual insights, brands can identify emerging risks within narratives such as toxic language, hate speech, and bot behaviors.
Beyond this, the technology can create a heat map of like-minded actors that are driving adversarial engagement across a topic or organization. In turn, this surfaces unseen risks at scale and pace. The use of generative AI can also accelerate reporting and strategic briefs, saving time and effort for execution in critical scenarios. Instead of adopting the wait-and-see approach, brands can now take on a more proactive stance against reputational and financial risk.
Importantly, brands must remember that tracking harmful narratives and risk isn’t a one-time thing. Technology will continue to play an important role. But the solutions need to be always on so organizations can measure the risk landscape immediately and make swift decisions to ensure they are on the right track.
Please brief our audience about the emerging trends of the new generation and how you plan to fulfill the dynamic needs of the AI-ML infrastructure.
AI-enabled disinformation is increasingly becoming central in the creation and spreading of disinformation and can make the supply of disinformation infinite. Generative AI technologies like Natural Language Processing (NLP) can produce vast amounts of low-effort and low-cost, convincing information designed to misinform or deceive readers by taking advantage of these open-source platforms.
However, we can also tap into generative AI capabilities to better combat disinformation. The RAV3N Copilot powered by Blackbird’s Constellation Risk Engine combined with the company’s generative AI large language model will become a transformative must-have for corporate and threat intelligence professionals, enabling them to get more done in critical, time-sensitive scenarios than ever before.
With its introduction, the unparalleled insights surfaced by Blackbird’s Constellation Platform can be directly utilized to auto-generate executive briefings, key findings, and even mitigation steps, freeing up teams to focus on their subject matter expertise.
What would be your valuable advice for budding entrepreneurs and industry professionals?
Being an entrepreneur can be a difficult journey. It’s important that the company you build has a purpose that is personal and important or it will be very hard to weather the hard times. What drives me is the responsibility I feel for society when it comes to fighting existential problems like disinformation and narrative manipulation. This problem is something I think of as a cyberattack on human perception and it is imperative that there are defensive tools in place to level the playing field. Being mission-driven from day one has helped me stay focused.
How do you plan to scale up Blackbird.AI’s growth curve in 2023 and beyond?
When conversations around disinformation and misinformation started, the topic was mostly relegated to academics and research. Companies today recognize the need for a trusted solution across public and private sectors that impact, security, society, finance, and more.
In response, we’ve been scaling pretty rapidly. Earlier this year, we announced Singapore as our regional headquarters. Blackbird plans to expand in Singapore and the APAC region in 2023 by expanding its local team, delving into the local regulatory environment, building local partnerships, optimizing the system for local markets, and establishing thought leadership in Narrative Risk Management and Disinformation to expand its reach as well as improve customer support.
The organization chose its headquarters to be in Singapore, what are its plans for the region of APAC?
Singapore and the APAC region have been proactively addressing disinformation through policy and education, and we believe we can continue to build on these efforts by strengthening our foothold in Singapore.
Blackbird.AI’s expansion into Singapore allows the company to deepen its expertise and better align with local needs across the broader APAC region. This means we are able to adapt and derive a localized approach to support regional organizations while establishing channel partnerships in key APAC markets.
CEO and Co-Founder of Blackbird.AI
Wasim Khaled is the CEO and Co-Founder of Blackbird.AI, an AI-driven Narrative & Risk Intelligence Platform that was purpose-built to empower trust, safety, and integrity across the global information ecosystem. Khaled is a member of the Social Intelligence Lab and the U.S. Department of State’s Global Engagement Center, providing strategic insight and technology solutions to Global 2000 organizations and the public sector. He has a wealth of expertise in designing quantitative measures to assess the dangers of escalating information warfare threats and is committed to offering effective countermeasures and risk mitigation strategies powered by the Blackbird Constellation Platform.