Leeds-based tech firm Crisp aims to halt online trolls and spread of fake news

One of Yorkshire’s leading tech firms is pioneering a new business model which it hopes will be able to dramatically stem the spread of misinformation and harmful behaviour on the internet.

Leeds-based Crisp works with some of the largest and best-known companies on the planet to make sure their reputations and brands are protected when false stories about them appear online.

Leeds-based Crisp works with some of the largest and best-known companies on the planet to make sure their reputations and brands are protected when false stories about them appear online.

However the firm, founded by entrepreneur Adam Hildreth, is now pivoting to make greater use of data to try and predict when the next wave of fake news will occur and attempt to nip in the bud attempts by bad actors and hackers to spread false information via the internet.

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Mr Hildreth said the pandemic had provided a challenging period for governments, businesses and individuals to know what is being said online is true and that he hoped predictions that Crisp would be able to offer will help inform the public to a greater degree.

He said: “We are in a tsunami of inauthentic and harmful content and there are actors out there who are really destroying our trust, whether that is on something like Covid-19, exploiting kids or just spreading malicious rumours about brands or making people feel physically unsafe. We have got to get to it as soon as possible.

“We need to be able to predict what is going to happen next.

“We want to be able to get as close to the issue as possible so we can stop it spreading and cut it off at its source so that people are trusting platforms and each other.

“If we can get to a point where the data that we have is allowing us with a very high degree of accuracy to predict issues that are going to occur, not necessarily before they have happened, but before they have started to take hold and before they have started to have an impact. That puts us in a completely different position to where we are today.

“It is going to be a huge thing for us.”

Mr Hildreth said that Crisp’s strategy would not involve analysing the posts of all users of social media but rather on areas known to be home to bad actors.

“This combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence would allow them to build models to suggest what they might do next.

He said: “There are always new conspiracy theories and groups popping out of nowhere and radicalising people you wouldn’t expect.

"Our job is to stay ahead of the bad actors who cause the problems."

“This new predictive nature will start to work out what is going to be the next narrative that is really going to start taking off so we can really start focusing, not on the thousands of issues but on the one or two issues that we can deal with and hopefully (we) can start filtering through to government campaigns so we can save lives, so that the correct information is given to individuals.”

To facilitate the change Crisp has hired former Chief Data Officer at HMRC Kevin Fletcher, the man responsible for setting up the data function at HMRC.

Mr Fletcher said: “This allows us to solve problems for customers from a broader sense of perspective than just processing the data and providing it back to them. We are able to track and provide that risk intelligence earlier, deeper and faster than I think you will find in other places.”

Founded in 2005 by Adam Hildreth, Crisp analyses online social chatter to provide 24/7/365 early-warning risk intelligence for leading brands, global enterprises, and social media platforms.

The firm protects more than $4.5 trillion of combined market capitalisation for its customers.