NEWSBYTE Facebook is buying artificial intelligence startup Bloomsbury AI in a bid to combat fake news, according to a report by TechCrunch.
The social network will acquire the London-based company in a stock and cash deal worth a reported $30 million (£23 million).
Bloomsbury AI develops natural language processing (NLP) capabilities, alongside an artificial intelligence technology called Cape, which reads documents and answers questions on the content – similar in some ways to the Debater system that IBM demonstrated last month.
According to Bloomsbury AI, the aim of the AI is to be “able to answer any question that requires reading better than a human”.
Sources said that Facebook plans to use this technology, and the Bloomsbury AI team, to combat fake news as well as content that may be defamatory, illegal, or otherwise problematic.
Among the investors in Bloomsbury AI are VC firm Fly Ventures, Seedcamp, IQ Capital, UCL Technology Fund, and the UK taxpayer-backed London Co-Investment fund.
It is also an alumnus of Entrepreneur First, a London-based company builder that invests in tech startups. William Tunstall-Pedoe, an AI expert who helped develop Amazon’s Alexa, is an angel investor in the company.
The report suggests that the acquisition is as much an ‘acqui-hire’ – where Facebook gets its hands on the company’s talent – as as a technology deal.
The Bloomsbury AI team will be put to work on developing systems to identify fake news and help moderate the reams of content published by Facebook’s one billion active users daily.
Of particular interest is Bloomsbury AI’s CTO and head of research, Sebastian Riedel, an acknowledged expert in natural language processing and a professor at University College London. Riedel also co-founded Factmata, a UK startup that develops tools specifically to help companies fight fake news.
Facebook has indicated that it plans further UK acquisitions.
Internet of Business says
Despite Bloomsbury AI being snapped up by an acquisitive US corporation, the deal can be seen as another thumbs-up for the UK’s AI industry.
In 2018, the British government has launched the new Office for AI and a £1 billion Sector Deal for the technology, among other initiatives in this area, while Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has pursued a policy of positioning London as Europe’s capital of artificial intelligence.
In 2014, Google acquired machine learning company DeepMind and Samsung has recently opened an AI research centre in Cambridge.
It’s inevitable that the next few years will see enormous competition for the best AI and machine learning startups, and further consolidation in the market. So the challenge for the UK now is whether it can hothouse its own technology giants independently, and not see all of them sold onto cash-rich US corporations.