Apr 9, 2024 - Technology

Exclusive: AI disinfo detection startup raises $20M

Illustration of a robotic hand holding a glowing dollar sign.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Alethea Group, an AI-powered social media monitoring platform, has secured a $20 million Series B round led by Google Ventures, the startup first tells Axios.

Why it matters: Alethea is one of the few cybersecurity companies able to raise money during an ongoing investment drought.

  • Heading into the 2024 U.S. elections, the funding will help the company boost its staff levels and build its product to spot and detect foreign disinformation campaigns online.

Zoom in: Founded in 2019, Alethea wades through social media posts and other online chatter to detect foreign influence operations launched against its clients.

  • Alethea's machine-learning platform pulls in news stories, social media posts and other content to track adverse user behaviors, the proliferation of new accounts and other indicators of a disinformation campaign.
  • Customers include companies, nonprofits and governments that would benefit from knowing if there's an ongoing disinformation campaign about their work or products.
  • A recent Alethea report found that Russian operatives have started creating fake versions of real news websites to link to in their social media campaigns — a far more sophisticated technique than 2016's bot-focused schemes.

The big picture: Alethea CEO Lisa Kaplan told Axios the new funding will help the company meet growing customer demand.

  • Alethea is part of a growing group of companies using AI-enabled technologies to help organizations track false narratives and disinformation campaigns about them.

Between the lines: Alethea now has several notable cybersecurity investors on its roster.

  • Karim Faris, general partner at Google Ventures, is joining Alethea's board as part of the new funding.
  • Ballistic Ventures — a firm led by Mandiant CEO Kevin Mandia, long-time Kleiner Perkins partner Ted Schlein, and ex-AT&T executive Barmak Meftah — has invested in Alethea since its Series A round and participated in the most recent raise.

What they're saying: "People kicked the tires on the tried and true, and then when that didn't work, they started reaching out to us," Kaplan said.

  • "People realized that this is the kind of thing where [if] it's going to happen, it's going to happen to everybody and in a lot of ways; it brings together communications and cybersecurity."

What's next: Alethea currently has around 50 employees, and the new funding will help to bring the company closer to 75 by the end of the year, Kaplan said.

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