Thu. Jan 20th, 2022

Pendulum helps businesses, governments and other organizations detect harmful stories on social media platforms and elsewhere on the web. The company announced today that it has raised a $5.9 million seed round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Cercano Management and others. The service was incubated at Madrona Venture Labs.

“Pendulum’s platform applies AI and NLP technologies to discover and track threats and opportunities in stories in the earliest days of their inception as they spread online,” explains Madrona President Hope Cochran. “By dissecting and categorizing the stories in text, video and audio content on social media platforms, companies are better prepared and able to engage with communities at will. With support for YouTube, BitChute, Rumble and Podcasts currently available, the platform will grow in the coming months to encompass all major social platforms.”

The team behind Pendulum seems ideally suited to build such a product. For example, co-founder Sam Clark previously worked as a data mining engineer at Decide.com and then eBay after it acquired that company. He also co-founded Transparency Tube, a project that categorizes and analyzes political YouTube channels. Transparency Tube shares quite a bit of DNA with Pendulum, and Clark then teamed up with Madrona to build a commercial product around this general idea of ​​tracking misinformation and misinformation online. That’s also where he teamed up with his co-founder Mark Listes, who brings a lot of government experience to the team. Listes previously served as the policy director for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission and the chief of staff for the National Security Innovation Network, where he helped manage the involvement of the U.S. Department of Defense.

Pendulum co-founders Sam Clark (l) and Mark Listes (r). Image Credits: Garland

While Listes expected to have a fairly quiet time on the Election Assistance Committee, he clearly chose the wrong time for it when he joined in 2016. “In November and December of ’16, the election room looked very different,” he told me. . “We had to deal with foreign interference and intelligence letters and everything under the sun. Long story short, over the course of the next two and a half years, I and my colleagues came into the midst of leading efforts to fight foreign interference from our electoral system. We have experienced it both personally and organizationally and then helped to get out of our total system. Harmful stories and the impact that stories, whether they be wrong or misinformation or misaligned stories, can have on society as a whole.”

But while Pendulum can be used by government agencies to track online stories, it is primarily a commercial service. “We’re commercial first,” Listes said. “Obviously there’s a simple, intuitive government game here, but we’re really just focusing on the commercial sector at first and we’re building some really powerful partnerships there.”

Image Credits: Garland

Listes stressed that for a platform like Pendulum to work, it needs to cover as many platforms as possible. It’s not enough to just follow Twitter, which doesn’t provide a representative sample of the population anyway, or YouTube. As a result, Pendulum also follows BitChute and Rumble, for example.

But Listes also noted that Pendulum is not concerned with judging the truth. “We actually have a really strong, powerful story-following engine that doesn’t rely on whether something is true or not,” he explained. “We’re staying away from truth assessment — and that opens us up to a wider range of use cases.” That means, for example, the company can partner with companies that want to track stories about a company’s executives and assets, for communication reasons as well as for security reasons.

Not wanting to decide whether something is true or not, Pendulum also opens up to use by nefarious actors. However, Listes states that the company does not keep any personally identifiable information and that the team is well aware of this possibility. “We build values ​​to ensure that we are not in any way creating an unfair playing field or empowering malicious actors and the like through the use of our tool,” he said.

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