In December and early January, we teased exciting Two Hat news coming your way in the new year. Today, we’re pleased to share our first announcement of 2019 — we have officially acquired ImageVision, an image recognition and visual search company. With the addition of ImageVision’s groundbreaking technology, we are now poised to provide the most accurate NSFW image moderation service in the industry.
We asked Two Hat CEO and founder Chris Priebe to discuss the ambitious technology goals that led to the acquisition. Here is part one of that discussion:
The future of AI is all about quality. Right now the study of images is still young. Anyone can download TensorFlow or PyTorch, feed it a few thousand images and get a model that gets things right 80-90% of the time. People are excited about that because it seems magical – “They fed a bunch of images into a box and it gave an answer that surprisingly right most of the time!” But even if you get 90% right, you are still getting 10% wrong.
Think of it this way: If you do 10 million images a day that is a million mistakes. A million times someone tried to upload a picture that was innocent and meaningful to them and they had to wait for a human to review it. That is one million images humans need to review. We call those false positives.
Worse than false positives are false negatives, where someone uploads an NSFW (not safe for work) picture or video and it isn’t detected. Hopefully, it was a mature adult who saw it. Even if it was an adult, they weren’t expecting to see adult content, so their trust in the site is in jeopardy. They’re probably less likely to encourage a friend to join them on the site or app.
Worse if it was a child who saw it. Worst of all if it is a graphic depiction of a child being abused.
Protecting children is the goal
That last point is closest to our heart. A few years ago we realized that what really keeps our clients awake at night is the possibility someone will upload child sexual abuse material (CSAM; also known as child exploitive imagery, or CEI, and formerly called child pornography) to their platform. We began a long journey to solve that problem. It began with a hackathon where we gathered some of the largest social networks in the world with international law enforcement and academia all in the same room and attempted to build a solution together.
So AI must mature. We need to get beyond a magical box that’s “good enough” and push it until AI becomes invisible. What do I mean by invisible? For us, that means you don’t even notice that there is a filter because it gets it right every time.
Today, everyone is basically doing the same thing, like what I described earlier — label some NSFW images and throw them at the black box. Some of us are opening up the black box and changing the network design to hotrod the engine, but for the most part it’s a world of “good enough”.
But in the future, “good enough” will no longer be tolerated. The bar of expectation will rise and people will expect it to just work. From that, we expect companies to hyper-specialize. Models will be trained that do one thing really, really well. Instead of a single model that answers all questions, instead, there will be groups of hyper-specialists with a final arbiter over them deciding how to best blend all their opinions together to make AI invisible.
We want to be at the top of the list for those models. We want to be the best at detecting child abuse, bullying, sextortion, grooming, and racism. We are already top of the market in several of those fields and trusted by many of the largest games and social sharing platforms. But we can do more.
Solving the biggest problems on the internet
That’s why we’ve turned our attention to acquiring. These problems are too big, too important to have a “not built here, not interested” attitude. If someone else has created a model that brings new experience to our answers, then we owe it our future to embrace every advantage we can get.
Success for me means that one day my children will take for granted all the hard work we’re doing today. That our technology will be invisible.
In part two, Chris discusses why ImageVision was the ideal choice for a technology acquisition— and how he hopes to change the landscape of image moderation in 2019.
“It’s like the story of several blind men describing an elephant. One describes a tail, another a trunk, another a leg. They each think they know what an elephant looks like, but until they start listening to each other they’ll never actually “see” the real elephant. Likewise in AI, some systems are good at finding one kind of problem and another at another problem. Could we train another model (called an ensemble) to figure out when each of them is right?”