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More Funding Goes To Startups Fighting Disinformation 

Illustration of robot nesting doll. [Dom Guzman]

Going online to find accurate information these days can seem like a futile effort.

From inaccuracy-laden AI-generated verbiage to deliberate deepfakes and disinformation,  conducting research isn’t what it used to be. Even keeping up with the news now usually entails wading through reams of misleading or outright false content. 

We’re fed up. And increasingly, our frustrations are inspiring startup investors to back businesses aimed at weeding out misinformation. 

It’s not a new phenomenon. A year ago, we wrote about funded startups working on ways to combat disinformation and misinformation, some of which had raised quite a bit of capital. Since then, however, money has continued to pour into the space.

AI tools to fight AI falsehoods

To get a sense of what investors are into, we put together a list of 16 companies, most of which last raised financing in the past year. To date, the selected startups have collectively raised more than $250 million.

Overall, it’s a group heavily focused on artificial intelligence, reflecting the growing role of AI in both creating and combating misinformation. It’s also a pretty youthful cohort, with the majority of funding going to seed and early stage rounds.

Notably, several larger financings closed just this year. In February, for instance, Clarity, a provider of software to identify and protect against harmful deepfakes and AI-generated synthetic media, picked up $16 million in a seed funding round. Bessemer Venture Partners and Walden Catalyst led the financing for the New York-based company, which was founded less than two years ago.

A few weeks earlier, Reken, a stealthy startup founded by a former head of Google’s product trust and safety group, landed $10 million in a seed round. Greycroft and FPV Ventures led the investment in the San Francisco company, which is building a platform to protect against generative AI threats. 

In a similar vein, Tel Aviv-based Cyabra, a self-described social threat intelligence provider, announced in January that it had closed a $5.7 million Series A extension round (and also added former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to its board of directors.) And just last week, Los Angeles-based PeakMetrics, a developer of tools for organizations to find and respond quickly to damaging social media content, picked up $3 million in seed funding.

Reputational damage control

For now, it’s common to see business models based on protecting reputations of well-known brands, businesses, and individuals. More than half the startups on our list are pursuing this strategy to some extent. 

This looks at first glance like a sensible approach. Founders, of course, raise money by convincing investors they can generate revenue. To do this, they have to make a case that those who stand to lose the most money from false online narratives — i.e. businesses and brands — will benefit from buying their products. 

Looking ahead, however, it would also be gratifying to see more technologies for reducing the scourge of online falsehoods reach audiences that aren’t directly paying for their software. This would be particularly helpful for AI-generated content, which we expect to grow at exponential rates and, as of yet, is not known for its accuracy.

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Illustration: Dom Guzman

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