Digital Safety: Combining the Best of AI Plus Human Insight

As AI and machine learning technologies continue to advance, there is increasingly more hype – and debate – about what it can or cannot do effectively. On June 29, the World Economic Forum released a pivotal report on Digital Safety. Some of the challenges identified in the report are:

  • The pandemic created challenges for countering vaccine misinformation.
  • January 6 (storming the US Capital) has necessitated a deeper look into the relationship between social platforms and extremist activity.
  • Child exploitation and abuse material (CSEAM) has continued to spread online.

Internationally, the G7 has committed to grow the international safety tech sector. We at Two Hat have made several trips to the UK pre-pandemic to provide feedback on the new online harms bill. With attention on solving online harms on the rise, we are excited to see new startups enter the field. Over 500 new jobs were created in the last year and the industry needs to continue attracting the best technology talent to solve this problem.

AI is a Valuable Component

For many, AI is a critical part of the solution. As the largest digital safety provider, we alone handle 100B human interactions a month. To put that in scale, that is 6.57 times the volume of Twitter. If a human could review 500 items an hour you would need 1.15 million humans to review all that data. To ask humans to do that would never scale. Worse, human eyes would gloss over and miss things. Alternatively if they only saw the worst we would be subjecting humans to days filled with looking at beheadings, rape, child abuse, harassment and many other harms leading to PTSD.

AI Plus Humans is the Solution

One of our mantras at Two Hat is, “Let humans do what humans do well and let computers do what they do well.” Computers are great at scale. Teach it a clear signal like “hello” is good and “hateful badwords” are bad and it will scale that to the billions. Humans, however, understand why those “hateful badwords” are bad. They bring empathy, loosely connected context, and they can make exceptions. Humans fit things into a bigger picture while machines (as magical as they may seem) are just following rules. We need both. Thus a human feedback loop is essential. Humans provide the creativity, teach the nuances, are the ethics committee, and stay on top of emerging trends in language and culture. According to Personabots CEO, Lauren Kunze, internet trolls have tried and failed to corrupt Mitsuku, an award-winning chatbot persona, on several occasions due to human supervisors being required to approve any knowledge retained globally by the AI.

We also need multiple forms of AI. “If all you have is a hammer everything looks like a nail” – modern proverb. A common mistake we see is people relying too much on one form of AI and forgetting the other.

Let’s consider some definitions of several parts of AI:

  • Artificial Intelligence refers to any specialized task done by a machine. This includes machine learning and expert systems.
  • Expert System refers to systems that use databases of expert knowledge to offer advice or make decisions.
  • Machine Learning refers to a machine that was coded to learn a task ‘on its own’ from the data it was given, but the decisions it makes are not coded.
  • Deep Learning refers to a specific form of machine learning, which is very trendy at the moment. This type of machine learning is based on ‘deep’ artificial neural networks.

To avoid the “everything looks like a nail” we use Expert Systems, Machine Learning, and Deep Learning within our stack. The trick is to use the right tool at the right level and to have a good human feedback loop.

And, given that we only view AI as a contributor to the solution vs The Solution – it allows us to see the screws and other “non-nails” and use humans and other systems and methods more effectively than the AI hammer to solve those issues.

Don’t Leave It To Chance

There was a great article by Neal Lathia where he reminds us that we shouldn’t be afraid to launch a product without machine learning. In our case, if you know a particular offensive phrase is not acceptable in your community, you don’t need to train a giant neural network to find it. An expert system will do. The problem with a neural network in this case is that you’re leaving it to chance. You’re feeding examples of it into a black box , it begins to see it everywhere, perhaps where you don’t want it. If you give it more examples that are mislabelled or even just too many counterexamples, it may ignore it completely.

At this point we learn something from antivirus companies that impacted how we’ve modelled our company.

  1. Process 100 billion messages a month
  2. be aware of new patterns that are harming one community
  3. have humans write manual signatures that are well vetted and accurate
  4. roll that out proactively to the other communities.

Determined Users will Subvert Your Filter

“The moment you fix a new problem, the solution is obsolete.” Many think the problem is “find badword”, not realizing the moment they find “badword” then users change their behaviour and no longer use it. Now they use “ba.dword” and “b4dw0rd”. When you solve that, they move on to “pɹoʍpɐq” and “baᕍw⬡rd” and somehow hide “badword” inside “goodword” or in a phrase. After 9 years we have so many tests for these types of subversions that would make you want to give these guys an honorary phD in creative hacking.

However if you rely on logical rules alone to find “badword” in all its many subversive forms you run the risk of missing similar words. For instance, if you take the phrase “bad word” and feed it into a pre-trained machine learning model to find words that are similar, you get words like “terrible”, “horrible, and “lousy”. In the antivirus analogy, humans use their imagination to create a manual signature. They might find “badword” is trending but did they consider “terrible”, “horrible”, “lousy”. Maybe – maybe not; it depends on their imagination. This is not a good strategy if missing “lousyword” means someone may commit suicide. Obviously we are not really talking about “lousyword”, but things that really matter.

The Holistic 5 Layer Approach to Community Protection:

How do you get all your tools to work together? Self-driving cars have a piece of the answer. In that context, if the AI gets it wrong someone gets run over. To resolve that, manufacturers mount as many cameras and sensors as they can. They train multiple AI systems and blend them together. If one system fails another takes over. My new van can read the lines on the side of the road and “assist” me by turning the corner on the highway. One day I was coming home from skiing with my kids in the back and it flashed at me telling me humans were required.

To scale to billions of messages we need that multi-layered approach. If one layer is defeated there is another behind it to back us up. If the AI is not confident, it should call in humans and it should learn from them. That is why Community Sift has 5 Layers of Community Protection. Each layer combines AI plus human insight, using the best of both.

  • Community Guidelines: Tell your community what you expect. In this way, you are creating safety via defining the acceptable context for your community. This is incredibly effective, as it solves the problem before it’s even begun. You are creating a place of community so set the tone at the door. This can be as simple as a short page of icons of what the community is about as you sign up. You can learn more about designing for online safety here. Additionally, our Director of Trust & Safety, Carlos Figueiredo, consults clients on setting the right community tone from the ground up and creating community guidelines as the foundational element to community health and safety operations.
  • Classify and Filter: The moment you state in your Community Guidelines that you will not tolerate harassment, abuse, child exploitation and hate, someone will test you to see if you really care. The classify and filter line of defense backs up your promise that you actually care about these things by finding and removing the obviously bad and damaging. Think of this like anti-virus technology but for words and images. This should focus on what are “deal-breakers” to your company; things once seen that cannot be unseen. Things that will violate the trust your community has in you. Just like with anti-virus technology, you use a system that works across the industry so that new trends and signatures can keep you safe in real-time.
  • User Reputation: Some online harm occurs in the borderline content over several interactions. You don’t want to over-filter for this because it restricts communication and frustrates normally positive members of your community. In this layer we address those types of harm by building a reputation on each user and on each context. There is a difference between a normally positive community member exceptionally sharing something offensive and a bad actor or a bot willfully trying to disrupt normal interactions. For example, it may be okay that someone says “do you want to buy” once. It is not okay if they say it 20 times in a row. In a more advanced sense, everything about buying is marked as borderline spam. For new and long standing users that may be allowed. But for people or bots that misuse that privilege, it is taken away automatically and automatically re-added when they go back to normal. The same principle works for sexual harassment, hate-speech, grooming of children, and filter manipulations. All those categories are full of borderline words and counter statements that need context. If context is King then reputation is Queen. Working in concert with the other two layers, user reputation is used to discourage bad actors while only reinforcing the guidelines for the occasional misstep.
  • User Report Automation: Even with the best technology in the above three layers, some things will get through. We need another layer of protection. Anytime you allow users to add content, allow other users to report that content. Feedback from your community is essential to keep the other three layers fresh and relevant. As society is continuously establishing new norms, your community is doing the same and telling you through user reports. Those same reports can also tell you a crisis is emerging. Our custom AI learns to take the same actions your moderators take consistently, reducing manual review by up to 70%, so your human moderators can focus on the things that matter.
  • Transparency Reports: In addition to legislation being introduced worldwide requiring transparency from social networks on safety measures, data insights from the other four layers drive actions to improve your communities. Are the interactions growing over time? Are you filtering too heavily and restricting the flow of communication? Is bullying on the rise in a particular language? How long does it take you to respond to suicide or a public threat? How long are high reputation members contributing to the community? These data insights demonstrate the return on investment of community management because a community that plays well together stays together. A community that stays together longer builds the foundation and potential for a successful business.

To Achieve Digital Safety, Use A Multi-Layered Approach

Digital safety is a complex problem which is getting increasing attention from international governments and not-for-profit organizations like the World Economic Forum. AI is a critical part of the solution, but AI alone is not enough. To scale to billions of messages we need that multi-layered approach that blends multiple types of AI systems together with human creativity and agility to respond to emerging trends. At the end of the day, digital safety is not just classifying and filtering bad words and phrases. Digital safety is about appropriately handling what really matters.


Tech Perspectives: Surpassing 100 billion online interactions in a month

In 2020, social platforms that wish to expand their product and scale their efforts are faced with a critical decision — how will they automate the crucial task of content moderation? As platforms grow from hundreds to thousands to millions of users, that means more usernames, more live chat, and more comments, all of which require some form of moderation. From app store requirements to legal compliance with global legislation, ensuring that all user-generated content is aligned with community guidelines is nothing short of an existential matter.

When it comes to making a technical choice for a content moderation platform, what I hear in consultations and demos can be distilled down to this: engineers want a solution that’s simple to integrate and maintain, and that can scale as their product scales. They are also looking for a solution that’s battle-tested and allows for easy troubleshooting — and that won’t keep them up at night with downtime issues!

“Processing 100 billion online interactions in one month is technically hard to achieve. That is not simply just taking a message and passing it on to users but doing deep textual analysis for over 3 million patterns of harmful things people can say online. It includes building user reputation and knowing if the word on the line above mixed with this line is also bad. Just trying to maintain user reputation for that many people is a very large technical challenge. And to do it all on 20 milliseconds per message is incredible”.  Chris Priebe, Two Hat’s CEO and Founder

Surpassing 100 Billion Online Interactions in a Month
I caught up with Laurence Brockman, Two Hat’s Vice President of Core Services, and Manisha Eleperuma, our Manager of Development Operations, just as we surpassed the mark of 100 billion pieces of human interactions processed in one month.

I asked them about what developers value in a content moderation platform, the benefits of an API-based service, and the technical challenges and joys of safeguarding hundreds of millions of users globally.

Carlos Figueiredo: Laurence, 100 billion online interactions processed in one month. Wow! Can you tell us about what that means to you and the team, and the journey to getting to that landmark?

“At the core, it’s meant we were able to keep people safe online and let our customers focus on their products and communities. We were there for each of our customers when they needed us most”.

Laurence Brockman: The hardest part for our team was the pace of getting to 100 billion. We tripled the volume in three months! When trying to scale & process that much data in such a short period, you can’t cut any corners.  And you know what? I’m pleased to say that it’s been business as usual – even with this immense spike in volume. We took preventative measures along the way, we focused on key areas to ensure we could scale. Don’t get me wrong, there were few late nights and a week of crazy refactoring a system but our team and our solution delivered. I’m very proud of the team and how they dug in, identified any potential problem areas and jumped right in. At 100 billion, minor problems can become major problems and our priority is to ensure our system is ready to handle those volumes. 

“What I find crazy is our system is now processing over 3 billion events every day! That’s six times the volume of Twitter”.

CF: Manisha, what are the biggest challenges and joys of running a service that safeguards hundreds of millions of users globally?

Manisha Eleperuma: I would start off with the joys. I personally feel really proud to be a part of making the internet a safer place. The positive effect that we can have on an individual’s life is immense. We could be stopping a kid from harming themself, we could be saving them from a predator, we could be stopping a friendly conversation turning into a cold battle of hate speech. This is possible because of the safety net that our services provide to online communities. Also, it is very exciting to have some of the technology giants and leaders in the entertainment industry using our services to safeguard their communities. 

It is not always easy to provide such top-notch service, and it definitely has its own challenges. We as an Engineering group are maintaining a massive complex system and keeping it up and running with almost zero downtime. We are equipped with monitoring tools to check the system’s health and engineers have to be vigilant for alerts triggered by these tools and promptly act upon any anomalies in the system even during non-business hours. A few months ago, when the pandemic situation was starting to affect the world, the team could foresee an increase in transactions that could potentially start hitting our system. 

“This allowed the team to get ahead of the curve and pre-scale some of the infrastructure components to be ready for the new wave so that when traffic increases, it hits smoothly without bringing down the systems”. 

Another strenuous exercise that the team often goes through is to maintain the language quality of the system. Incorporating language-specific characteristics into the algorithms is challenging, but exciting to deal with. 

CF: Manisha, what are the benefits of using an API-based service? What do developers value the most in a content moderation platform?

ME: In our context, when Two Hat’s Community Sift is performing as a classification tool for a customer, all transactions happen via customer APIs. In every customer API, based on their requirements, it has the capability to access different components of our platform side without much hassle. For example, certain customers rely on getting the player/user context, their reputation, etc. The APIs that they are using to communicate with our services are easily configurable to fetch all that information from the internal context system, without extra implementation from the customer’s end.

This API approach has accelerated the integration process as well. We recently had a customer who was integrated with our APIs and went live successfully within a 24 hour period”.

Customers expect reliability and usability in moderation platforms. When a moderator goes through content in a Community Sift queue, we have equipped the moderator with all the necessary data, including player/user information with the context of the conversation, history and the reputation of the player which eases decision-making. This is how we support their human moderation efforts. Further, we are happy to say that Two Hat has expanded the paradigm to another level of automated moderation, using AI models that make decisions on behalf of human moderators after it has learned from their consistent decisions, which lowers the moderation costs for customers. 

CF: Laurence, many of our clients prefer to use our services via a server to server communication, instead of self-hosting a moderation solution. Why is that? What are the benefits of using a service like ours?

LB: Just as any SaaS company will tell you, our systems are able to scale to meet the demand without our customers’ engineers having to worry about it. It also means that as we release new features and functions, our customers don’t have to worry about expensive upgrades or deployments. While all this growth was going on, we also delivered more than 40 new subversion detection capabilities into our core text-classification product.

Would you like to see our content moderation platform in action? Request a demo today.

Witnessing the Dawn of the Internet’s Duty of Care

As I write this, we are a little more than two months removed from the terrorist attacks in Christchurch. Among many things, Christchurch will be remembered as the incident that galvanized world view, and more importantly global action, around online safety.

In the last two months, there has been a seismic shift in how we look at internet safety and how content is shared. Governments in London, Sydney, Washington, DC, Paris and Ottawa are considering or introducing new laws, financial penalties and even prison time for those who fail to remove harmful content and do so quickly. Others will follow, and that’s a good thing — securing the internet’s future requires the world’s governments to collectively raise the bar on safety, and cooperate across boundaries.

In order to reach this shared goal, it is essential that technology companies engage fully as partners. We witnessed a huge step forward in just last week when Facebook, Amazon, and other tech leaders came out in strong support of the Christchurch Call to Action. Two Hat stands proudly with them.

Clear terms of use, timely actions by social platforms on user reports of extremist content, and transparent public reporting are the building blocks of a safer internet. Two Hat also believes every web site should have baseline filtering for cyberbullying, images of sexual abuse, extremist content, and encouragement of self-harm or suicide.

Crisis protocols for service providers and regulators are essential, as well — we have to get better at managing incidents when they happen. Two Hat also echoes the need for bilateral education initiatives with the goal of helping people become better informed and safer internet users.

In all cases, open collaboration between technology companies, government, not for profit organizations, and both public and private researchers will be essential to create an internet of the future that is Safe by Design. AI + HI (artificial intelligence plus human intelligence) is the formula we talk about that can make it happen.

AI+HI is the perfect marriage of machines, which excel at processing billions of units of data quickly, guided by humans, who provide empathy, compassion and critical thinking. Add a shared global understanding of what harmful content is and how we define and categorize it, and we are starting to address online safety in a coordinated way.

New laws and technology solutions to moderate internet content are necessary instruments to help prevent the incitement of violence and the spread of online hate, terror and abuse. Implementing duty of care measures in the UK and around the world requires a purposeful, collective effort to create a healthier and safer internet for everyone.

Our vision of that safer internet will be realized when exposure to hate, abuse, violence and exploitation no longer feels like the price of admission for being online.

The United Kingdom’s new duty of care legislation, the Christchurch Call to Action, and the rise of the world’s collective will move us closer to that day.


Two Hat is currently offering no cost, no obligation community audits for anyone who could benefit from a second look at their moderation techniques.

Our Director of Community Trust & Safety will examine your community, locate areas of potential risk, and provide you with a personalized community analysis, including recommended best practices and tips to maximize user engagement. This is a unique opportunity to gain insight into your community from an industry expert.

Book your audit today.

Two Hat Named One of 2019 “Ready to Rocket” Growth Companies in British Columbia’s Technology Sectors

List Profiles B.C.’s Tech Companies Best-Positioned to Capitalize on Current Sector Trends

VANCOUVER, B.C. (March 20, 2019) – Rocket Builders announced its seventeenth (17th) annual “Ready to Rocket” lists naming leading automated content moderation company Two Hat as one of the “Ready to Rocket” companies in the Information and Communication Technology category. The list profiles British Columbia technology companies that are best positioned to capitalize on the technology sector trends that will lead them to faster growth than their peers. Two Hat was highlighted for their leading Community Sift chat filter.

The annual 2019 “Ready to Rocket” lists provide accurate predictions of private companies that will likely experience significant growth, venture capital investment or acquisition by a major player in the coming year. Two Hat is listed among 85 companies across this year’s list of companies in the Information and Communication Technology category.

“We’ve experienced incredible growth over the last year, and we expect it to only get better in 2019,” said Chris Priebe, Two Hat CEO and founder. “We’ve been working with the biggest gaming companies in the world for several years now. But last year social platforms went through a major paradigm shift, which opened content moderation solutions like ours to break into new and emerging industries like edtech, fintech, travel and hospitality, and more.”

Two Hat is the creator of Community Sift, a powerful risk-based chat filter and content moderation software that protects online communities, brands, and bottom lines. Community Sift is the industry leader in high-risk content detection and moderation, protecting some of the biggest online games, virtual worlds, and social products on the internet. With the number of child pornography incidents in Canada on the rise, Two Hat collaborated with Canadian law enforcement and leading academic partners to train a groundbreaking new AI model,, to detect and remove child sexual abuse material (CSAM) for investigators and social platforms.

“Over the 17 years of the program, the B.C. technology sector has steadily grown each year, and presents a growing challenge to select and identify the most likely to succeed for our Ready to Rocket lists,” said Geoffrey Hansen, Managing Partner at Rocket Builders.

“In recent years, a startup economy has blossomed yielding a rich field of companies for our consideration, with over 450 companies reviewed to make our selections of 203 winners. Our Emerging Rocket lists enables us to profile those earlier stage companies that are well positioned for investment.”

The average growth rate on the list was over 40 percent growth, 32 companies exceeding double-digit growth and six companies exceeding 100 percent growth.

Two Hat has been named a “Ready to Rocket” company for four consecutive years. This year’s award follows Two Hat’s recent acquisition of ImageVision, an image recognition and visual search company, and the launch of

About Two Hat
Founded in 2012, Two Hat is an AI-based technology company that empowers gaming and social platforms to grow and protect their online communities. With their flagship product Community Sift, an enterprise-level content filter and automated chat, image, and video moderation tool, online communities can proactively filter abuse, harassment, hate speech, adult content, and other disruptive behavior.

About Rocket Builders
Rocket Builders produces the “Ready to Rocket” list which profiles information technology companies with the greatest potential for revenue growth in the coming year. The lists are predictive of future success making them unique in approach and unique in value for our business audience. The “Ready to Rocket” lists are the only predictive lists of its kind in North America, requiring many months of sector and company analysis. The 2019 list features 85 “Ready to Rocket” technology growth companies and 118 “Emerging Rocket” early stage startups.

GreenSmith PR
Mike Smith, 703.623.3834

The Changing Landscape of Automated Content Moderation in 2019

Is 2019 the year that content moderation goes mainstream? We think so.

Things have changed a lot since 1990 when Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. A few short years later, the world started to surf the information highway – and we’ve barely stopped to catch our collective breath since.

Learn about the past, present, and future of online content moderation in an upcoming webinar

The internet has given us many wonderful things over the last 30 years – access to all of recorded history, an instant global connection that bypasses country, religious, and racial lines, Grumpy Cat – but it’s also had unprecedented and largely unexpected consequences.

Rampant online harassment, an alarming rise in child sexual abuse imagery, urgent user reports that go unheard – it’s all adding up. Now that well over half of Earth’s population is online (4 billion people as of January 2018), we’re finally starting to see an appetite to clean up the internet and create safe spaces for all users.

The change started two years ago.

Mark Zuckerberg’s 2017 manifesto hinted at what was to come:

“There are billions of posts, comments, and messages across our services each day, and since it’s impossible to review all of them, we review content once it is reported to us. There have been terribly tragic events — like suicides, some live streamed — that perhaps could have been prevented if someone had realized what was happening and reported them sooner. There are cases of bullying and harassment every day, that our team must be alerted to before we can help out. These stories show we must find a way to do more.”

In 2018, the industry finally realized that it was time to find solutions to the problems outlined in Facebook’s manifesto. The question was no longer, “Should we moderate content on our platforms?” and instead became, “How can we better moderate content on our platforms?”

Play button on a film stripLearn how you can leverage the latest advances in content moderation in an upcoming webinar

The good news is that in 2019, we have access to the tools, technology, and years of best practices to make the dream of a safer internet a reality. At Two Hat, we’ve been working behind the scenes for nearly seven years now (alongside some of the biggest games and social networks in the industry) to create technology to auto-moderate content so accurately that we’re on the path to “invisible AI” – filters that are so good you don’t even know they’re in the background.

On February 20th, we invite you to join us for a very special webinar, “Invisible AI: The Future of Content Moderation”. Two Hat CEO and founder Chris Priebe will share his groundbreaking vision of artificial intelligence in this new age of chat, image, and video moderation.

In it, he’ll discuss the past, present, and future of content moderation, expanding on why the industry shifted its attitude towards moderation in 2018, with a special focus on the trends of 2019.

He’ll also share exclusive, advance details about:

We hope you can make it. Give us 30 minutes of your time, and we’ll give you all the information you need to make 2019 the year of content moderation.

PS: Another reason you don’t want to miss this – the first 25 attendees will receive a free gift! ; )

Read about Two Hat’s big announcements:

Two Hat Is Changing the Landscape of Content Moderation With New Image Recognition Technology

Two Hat Leads the Charge in the Fight Against Child Sexual Abuse Images on the Internet

Two Hat Releases New Artificial Intelligence to Moderate and Triage User-Generated Reports in Real Time


The Future of Image Moderation: Why We’re Creating Invisible AI (Part Two)

Yesterday, we announced that Two Hat has acquired image moderation service ImageVision. With the addition of ImageVision’s technology to our existing image recognition tech stack, we’ve boosted our filter accuracy — and are determined to push image moderation to the next level.

Today, Two Hat CEO and founder Chris Priebe discusses why ImageVision was the ideal choice for a technology acquisition— and how he hopes to change the landscape of image moderation in 2019.

We were approached by ImageVision over a year ago. Their founder Steven White has a powerful story that led him to found the company (it’s his to tell so I won’t share). His story resonated with me and my own journey of why I founded Two Hat. He spent over 10 years perfecting his art. He had clients with Facebook, Yahoo, Flickr, and Apple. That is 10 years of experience and over $10 million in investment to solve the problems of accurately detecting pornographic images.

Of course 10 years ago we all did things differently. Neural networks weren’t popular yet. Back then, you would look at how much skin tone was in an image. You looked at angles and curves and how they relate to each other. ImageVision made 185 of these hand-coded features.

Later they moved on to neural networks but ImageVision did something amazing. They took their manually coded features and fed both them and the pixels into the neural network. And they got a result different from what everyone else was doing at the time.

Now here is the reality — there is no way I’m going to hire people to write nearly 200 manually coded features in this modern age. And yet the problem of child sexual abuse imagery is so important that we need to throw every resource we can at it. It’s not good enough to only prevent 90% of exploitation — we need all the resources we can get.

Like describing an elephant

So we did a study. We asked, “What would happen if we took several image detectors and mixed them together? Would they give a better answer than any alone?”

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. What if we trained another model (called an ensemble) to figure out when each of them is right?

For our study, we took 30,000 pornographic images and 55,000 clean images. We used ImageVision images since they are full of really hard ones to find; the kind of images you might actually see in real life and not just a lab experiment. The big cloud providers found between 89-98% of pornographic images out of all 30k images, while the precision rate was around 95-98% for all of them (precision refers to the proportion of positive identifications that are correct).

We were excited that our current system found most of the images, but we wanted to do better.

For the project, we had to create a bunch of weak learners to find CSAM. Detecting CSAM is such a huge problem that we needed to throw everything we could at it. So we ensembled the weak learners all together to see what would happen — and we got another 1% of accuracy, which is huge because the gap from 97% to 100% is the hardest to close.

But how do you close the last 2%? This is where millions of dollars and decades of experience are critical. This is where we must acquire and merge every trick in the book. When we took ImageVision’s work and merged it with our own, we squeezed out another 1%. And that’s why we bought them.

We’re working on a white paper where we’ll present our findings in further detail. Stay tuned for that soon.

The final result

So if we bought ImageVision, not only would we gain 10 years of experience, multiple patents, and over $10 million in technology, but we would be the best NSFW detector in the industry. And if we added that into our CSAM detector (along with age detection, face detection, body part detection, and abuse detection) then we could push that accuracy even closer and hopefully save more kids from the horrors of abuse. Spending money to solve this problem was a no-brainer for us.

Today, we’re on the path to making AI invisible.

Learn more about Priebe’s groundbreaking vision of artificial intelligence in an on-demand webinar. He shares more details about the acquisition,, and the content moderation trends that will dominate 2019. Register to watch the webinar here.

Further reading:

Part One of The Future of Image Moderation: Why We’re Creating Invisible AI
Official ImageVision acquisition announcement.

The Future of Image Moderation: Why We’re Creating Invisible AI (Part One)

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”.

Invisible AI

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.

Sneak peek:

“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?”


Read the official ImageVision acquisition announcement

New Research Suggests Sentiment Analysis is Critical in Content Moderation

At Two Hat, research is the foundation of everything we do. We love to ask big questions and seek even bigger answers. And thanks to a generous grant from Mitacs, we’ve partnered with leading Canadian universities to conduct research into the subjects that we’re most passionate about — from protecting children by detecting child sexual abuse material to developing new and innovative advances in chat moderation.

Most recently, Université Laval student researcher Éloi Brassard-Gourdeau and professor Richard Khoury asked the question “What is the most accurate and effective way to detect toxic (also known as disruptive) behavior in online communities?” Specifically, their hypothesis was:

“While modifying toxic content and keywords to fool filters can be easy, hiding sentiment is harder.”

They wanted to see if sentiment analysis was more effective than keyword detection when identifying disruptive content like abuse and hate speech in online communities.

Definitions of sentiment analysis, toxicity, subversion, and keywords in content moderationIn Impact of Sentiment Detection to Recognize Toxic and Subversive Online Comments, Brassard-Gourdeau and Khoury analyzed over a million online comments using one Reddit and two Wikipedia datasets. The results show that sentiment information helps improve toxicity detection in all cases. In other words, the general sentiment of a comment — whether it’s positive or negative — is a more effective measure of toxicity than just keyword analysis.

But the real boost came when they used sentiment analysis on subversive language; that is, when users attempted to mask sentiment using L337 5p33k, deliberate misspellings, and word substitutions. According to the study, “The introduction of subversion leads to an important drop in the accuracy of toxicity detection in the network that uses the text alone… using sentiment information improved toxicity detection by as much as 3%.

You may be asking yourself, why does this matter? With chat moderation becoming more common in games and social apps, more users will find creative ways to subvert filters. Even the smartest content moderation tools on the market (like Two Hat’s Community Sift, which uses a unique AI called Unnatural Language Processing to detect complex manipulations), will find it increasingly difficult to flag disruptive content. As an industry, it’s time we started looking for innovative solutions to a problem that will only get harder in time.

In addition to asking big questions and seeking even bigger answers, we have several foundational philosophies at Two Hat that inform our technology. We believe that computers should do computer work and humans should do human work, and that an ensemble approach is key to exceptional AI.

This study validates our assumption that using multiple data points and multiple models in automated moderation algorithms are critical in boosting accuracy and ensuring a better user experience.

“We are in an exciting time in AI and content moderation,” says Two Hat CEO and founder Chris Priebe. “I am so proud of our students and the hard work they are doing. Every term they are pushing the boundaries of what is possible. Together, we are unlocking more and more pieces to the recipe that will one day make an Internet where people can share without fear of harassment or abuse.

To learn more, check out the full paper here.

Keep watching this space for more cutting-edge research. And stay tuned for major product updates and product launches from Two Hat in 2019!