Jun 17, 2021

Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System

Elise Leise
3 min
Critics claim that new AI emotion-recognition platforms like Taigusys could infringe on Chinese citizens’ rights

In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’. 


Who Will Use the Data? 

As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.


It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens. 


How Does It Work? 

Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse. 


Can We Really Detect Human Emotions? 

This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state. 


In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others. 


Is China the Only One? 

Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous. 


‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU)


Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’. 


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Jul 27, 2021

AI company ActiveFence secures $100m funding

online security
Catherine Gray
3 min
ActiveFence, developers of an intelligence-led, AI-powered solution to combat online safety have announced they have raised $100 million in funding

Start-up, ActiveFence provides Trust and Safety, as well as online security professionals world-class intelligence, data and technologies to cultivate a better and safer online world.

ActiveFence identifies and tracks malicious activities online, at scale. By scanning hidden sources of chatter and across the web, ActiveFence safeguard against bad actors, the content they share and the networks they operate.

Its solution protects billions of people worldwide from violent extremism, disinformation, child sexual abuse, fraud and other harms on the internet.

“We take a fundamentally different approach to trust, safety and content moderation. We are proactively searching the darkest corners of the web and looking for bad actors in order to understand the sources of malicious content,” said Noam Schwartz, co-founder and CEO of ActiveFence

“Our customers then know what’s coming. They don’t need to wait for the damage, or for internal research teams to identify the next scam or disinformation campaign. We work with some of the most important companies in the world, but even tiny, super niche platforms have risks,” he continued.

The company has now announced significant funding on the back of a surge of large organisations using its services.

Funding for AI-powered online safety solutions

Co-headquartered in New York and Tel Aviv, ActiveFence have raised $100 million in funding. With this, the company will be able to continue the development of its tool and expand its customer base.

Although it yet to disclose any names, companies within ActiveFence’s customer base are:

  • Technology platforms - social media, file sharing, video and audio streaming, and more.
  • Government agencies and non-governmental organisations - national security, law enforcement, think tanks, and more.
  • Brands - Fortune 50 brands across industries.

With its platform, ActiveFence claims it has protected billions of users, has 3.4m malicious data sources and provides 24/7 real-time data and alerts.

ActiveFence’s ‘unprecedented success’ leads to increased valuation

The $100 million in funding that has been announced covers two rounds: Series B led by CRV and Highland Europe and Series A.

Although never formally announced, Series A was led by Grove Ventures and Norwest Venture Partners.

“We are very honoured to be ActiveFence partners from the very earliest days of the company, and to be part of this important journey to make the internet a safer place and see their unprecedented success with the world’s leading internet platforms,” said Lotan Levkowitz, general partner at Grove Ventures.

It is now believed the valuation of the company is over $500 million.

Combating malicious content with AI

In a time with increased social media presence, there has been a surge in awareness around online safety and how bad actors use social media to spread malicious content. 

ActiveFence’s solution is a set of algorithms that tap into innovations in AI and map relationships between conversations. 

The algorithms look into both obvious and harder-to-reach parts of the internet to pick up on chatter that is typically where a lot of the malicious content and campaigns are born, before they become higher-profile issues.  

Built on the concept of big data analytics, the platform proactively detects malicious activities online while empowering online security professionals to keep people safe from harm.

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