The spread of the coronavirus brought with it a flurry of WhatsApp messages, unreliable news websites, and Facebook or Twitter ‘virals’. With plenty of misinformation out there, fake news spread like wildfire.
Lyric Jain, Founder and CEO of misinformation detection startup Logically, says, “We debunked around 3,000 such claims around COVID-19. Majority of these were in the first three to four months of the pandemic.”
Founded in 2016, Logically is an AI-based platform that detects local fallacy, inaccuracies, and bias using machine learning (ML) algorithms. The startup uses technology and human intelligence to identify and stop misinformation from going viral.
With teams working out of India, Logically recently won the government’s AatmaNirbhar Bharat App Innovation Challenge in the news category.
“The challenge resulted in greater awareness about Logically. We saw a huge spike in our usage from cities that we did not typically target in our marketing campaigns,” says Lyric, 24, in a recent conversation with YourStory.
On the AI side, Logically has capabilities that try and assess whether an activity spotted online could be harmful, dangerous, toxic, or false. It also has analysts who conduct assessments.
Logically has conducted 10,000 manual fact checks, and an additional 70,000 automated fact checks in the last year itself.
The story so far
Besides using AI to spot fake news, Logically’s team of media forensic experts and technical experts assess content on the internet. However, not all content is sent to the team of experts.
“We have built a lot of automation and collaborative bots around them…we have a certain degree of confidence and we rely on its assessment,” Lyric says.
In 2019, when YourStory last spoke to Logically, the team had 70 employees with 25 journalists and fact checkers. Today, the team size is 100, with 45 journalists and fact checkers. Most journalists and analysts are full-time employees; the others are associated with some academic or research organisations.
“We have employed more team members during the pandemic, especially after March,” Lyric says.
Earlier in July this year, Logically received funding of $2.5 million from UK-based institutional investors Mercia and XTX Ventures.
Rolling out new products
Logically helps individual users through its application, and public sector partners and platforms to amplify the impact of its work. The B2C product is available as an app for both Android and iOS users, and Logically has rolled out its B2B product. The B2B product was first used in India during the Maharashtra elections when Logically worked with the Indian Election Commission.
Later, it was also rolled out with several partners across India and the UK. It is now being used in the US to identify ongoing information threats and offering advice on how to overcome those. Additionally, the B2B product is also being used by pharmaceutical brands to prevent anti-vaccine information.
“We have worked with Head & Shoulders. They did not want to place their ads next to hateful information because that negatively damages the brand,” Lyric says. Thus, the startup works with ad networks and brands directly as well.
It has previously also worked with government bodies, including the Mysore Police.
Logically now serves more than two lakh B2C users, as compared to 60,000 users in August 2019. It has onboarded seven B2B clients so far.
The B2B product works on a SaaS model, and has professional service components attached. “We also provide fully deployed engineers and analysts to help B2B clients deal with specific crisis situations or initiatives,” Lyric explains.
The startup is still working on a freemium model for the B2C model, and is in beta stage.
In India, Logically has offices in Bengaluru, Mysore, and Mumbai.
Apart from English, Logically detects fake news in regional Indian languages, including Hindi, Marathi, and Kannada.
Logically is capable of accessing different languages, but the automation is less effective in languages other than English. Thus, the team has to rely more on experts for detecting misinformation spread in regional languages.
The platform has plans to add more Indian regional languages on a quarterly basis, as and when it notices growth in particular regions. “We will shortly be onboarding some of Bihar’s dialects as well, during election season next month,” Lyric says.
Logically has previously worked with law enforcement agencies in India. “There were rumours that people from certain communities were avoiding lockdowns and spreading COVID-19. This caused communal tensions and we were able to work with law enforcement to find out who was spreading such information and take action against them,” Lyric says.
He adds that earlier bots originating in Pakistan were interfering with geopolitical and sensitive issues within India. Logically was able to flag that to various agencies at the Centre.
“Besides COVID-19, India has had interesting developments – the death of a Bollywood actor, the conflict with China, and the Kashmir issue. Those have been the biggest drivers of fact tracks and misinformation and we are trying our best to detect misinformation across these topics,” he says.
Scaling during the pandemic
COVID-19 did not affect Logically much internally. The team was already spread across different locations, and remote working was not a new concept.
Amidst the sudden developments, the startup has been working with various governments in India and Europe. “We have been working to limit information risks that people are seeing. It has definitely helped support our growth.”
Speaking of challenges, Lyric says most of its work is trust-based and “building trust digitally over Zoom calls has been difficult”.
However, after the pandemic, Logically has closed a lot of deals as it continues to focus on developing its underlying technologies.
Logically is now gearing up for the next major event — the US Presidential elections. The team has been preparing for this for more than three years.
“It is kind of our Super Bowl or Cricket World Cup finals,” Lyric jokes. The US elections will help Logically create a global footprint and allow the startup to prove its worth.
Market overview and future plans
A survey conducted by Statista on exposure to fake news across India suggested that 45 percent of the respondents said that they had come across stories and news that were made up for political or commercial reasons.
Indian startups like Unfound News, Alt News, and MetaFact have been battling the fake news problem. However, Lyric says Logically has a differentiator to offer.
“It is how we not just use AI or humans, but how uniquely we use them together. And our ability to scale processes when it comes to critical global events,” he says.
Logically is now building a special WhatsApp number where B2C users can forward any news or information that they receive and an automated fact checker would let the user know whether the news is fake. Additionally, it would help track the source of misinformation spread through WhatsApp.
The startup is also working on a product to track the source of various propaganda campaigns, giving people access to credible and authoritative information.
Going ahead, Logically has plans to raise capital in 2021 and further expand its team across markets in India, Europe, and the US.
Edited by Teja Lele Desai
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