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Twitter Buys Artificial-Intelligence Startup to Help Fight Spam, Fake News and Other Abuse

Twitter, as part of ongoing efforts to improve the “health” of discussions on the platform, announced that it has acquired U.K.-based artificial-intelligence startup Fabula AI.

Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed. The initial focus for Fabula as part of Twitter “will be to improve the health of the conversation, with expanding applications to stop spam and abuse and other strategic priorities in the future,” according to Twitter chief technology officer Parag Agrawal, who announced the acquisition in a blog post Monday.

Fabula has developed the ability to analyze “very large and complex data sets” to detect network manipulation and can identify patterns that other machine-learning techniques can’t, according to Agrawal. The startup has created a “truth-risk scoring platform” to identify misinformation, using data from sources including Snopes and PolitiFact.

Twitter, in addition to improving detection of spam and other violations of its policies, plans to use Fabula’s technology to enhance products, including the timeline, recommendations and the explore tab, as well as the process for how users sign up for the service. Spam and bogus accounts continue to be a big problem for the social platform. According to Twitter’s estimates, in the first quarter of 2019, fake and/or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of its active user base.

Fabula’s team will join the Twitter Cortex machine-learning team. Twitter said it has created a research group led by Sandeep Pandey, head of machine learning/AI engineering, to focus on such areas as natural-language processing, reinforcement learning, machine-learning ethics, recommendation systems, and graph deep learning.

Founded in April 2018, Fabula is led chief scientist Michael Bronstein and chief technologist Federico Monti, who began collaborating together while at Switzerland’s University of Lugano. Bronstein is currently the chair in machine learning and pattern recognition at Imperial College London and will remain in that position while leading graph deep learning research at Twitter.

Twitter in the past has acquired other AI startups, including image-search specialist Madbits in 2014, machine-learning configuration developer Whetlab in 2015 and visual-processing startup Magic Pony in 2016.

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