Primer acquires Yonder, adds disinformation analysis to AI portfolio for information operations.

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Primer acquires Yonder: enhancing our ability to combat disinformation attacks 

By Sean Gourley
Posted June 7, 2022

“As everyone is aware, misinformation and disinformation are being sown by many of our competitors, and the problem is only growing. We have to be able to see that in real time. But we also have to be able to counter with all elements of statecraft.” – General Richard D. Clarke, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, April 2022 

Primer has been deploying core Natural Language Processing (NLP) infrastructure and Engines to help people detect, understand, and respond to disinformation campaigns. This has been a critical aspect of Primer’s work with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and drives us to bring the best Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to operators who make mission-critical decisions. We are committed to accelerating our work in information operations and today we are excited to announce our acquisition of Yonder, a pioneering company in disinformation analysis. 

Disinformation is changing the course of the world

From the war in Ukraine to market manipulation of cryptocurrency, disinformation changes the course of conflict, impacts elections, degrades brands, and distorts discussions. These narratives develop across the Internet at a pace and scale that humans simply can’t detect or keep up with. A single narrative, even if it’s false or misleading, may impact an organization’s competitive or strategic position in the world – seemingly overnight. Early intelligence about emerging narratives is critical, so organizations can be proactive and avoid an expensive and exhausting game of whack-a-mole. 

But detecting and mitigating the impact of influence operations is hard. Organizations have a small window of time to address narratives before they go viral. Getting in front of these messages is essential, because it can have lasting effects on perceptions, beliefs, and behavior. We saw this play out in the war in Ukraine when there were false messages circulating about the U.S. operating a chemical weapons facility in Ukraine. By detecting and proactively refuting these claims, the U.S. government got in front of the narrative before opinions were formed and solidified. 

Yet even if an organization detects the emerging narrative in time, understanding the risk is often less straightforward. Questions need to be answered. Which groups started or are promoting the narrative, what is their agenda, who are they connected with, how influential are they, what will they do next … is this a momentary blip or something more organized and persistent?

These are exactly the types of questions that Yonder helps customers answer – the who, what, where, why, and how of a disinformation campaign. Fortune 1000 companies, including the world’s largest retailer, a fast food brand, and telco company, use Yonder to proactively monitor and take action to avoid situations that could harm their brands and customers. Yonder provides contextual intelligence about the narrative and factions promulgating or amplifying it. Users can configure their settings in an easy-to-use User Interface (UI) and receive alerts via email if something in their world is changing. Yonder is able to understand evolving narratives and, importantly, does so across multiple languages.

A robust and scalable NLP information operations suite 

Detecting information manipulation operations is mission-critical for the US Department of Defense, Intelligence Community, and strategic international partner organizations. Identifying influence campaigns is increasingly challenging because of advances in synthetic text generation. These technological advancements are making it largely impossible for most tools to detect synthetic text because they lack the predictable “tells.” But this is Primer’s strength. Our Primer NLP Engines automatically detect content that has been algorithmically amplified by bots or even automatically generated by advanced AI programs. 

Recognizing our customers’ diverse needs for understanding fast-breaking events in real time, we launched Primer Command. With Command, organizations can easily monitor and cut through noisy and high-volume social and news media, so they can understand risk and take action. Our advanced NLP algorithms work around the clock, at human-level accuracy and machine scale and speed, to automatically detect and display the origin and source of disputed information – all accessible within a single and intuitive interface. 

By pairing Yonder’s contextual narrative intelligence capabilities with Primer Command and our state-of-the-art NLP/ML models, we can provide our customers with advanced early warning about emerging narratives and agenda-based online networks associated with propaganda. Our combined capabilities also allow us to draw out the factions pushing disinformation on social media for our customers. 

The need for tracking early signals has become increasingly critical as influence operations have become a key element of modern warfare. It was a tactic Russia used before they invaded Ukraine, portraying Ukraine as an aggressor preparing to attack Russia-backed forces on the eastern border. They also began promoting a narrative that the US is abandoning Ukraine by drawing comparisons to the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Spreading disinformation has been a part of the Russian military arsenal ever since. 

What the war in Ukraine has shown is that it is no longer enough for the U.S. military to track intelligence about adversaries’ actions. The same caliber of signals is needed today about competitor influence operations. Having these signals at scale is exactly what USSOCOM Commander General Clarke mentioned as part of his SOFIC keynote in May 2022. He suggested that the US military needs to have sentiment analysis capabilities similar to how major companies track influence operations against their brand. That there is a requirement for the U.S. military to generate alerts warning about information manipulation campaigns so they can respond to it. 

Creating a “monitor” by combining brand terms, sources, exclusionary terms, and geofencing in Primer Command.

In Primer Command, users can get a quick snapshot of the sentiment around their brands.

What’s next

We believe that government and civil society organizations need to have the tools to be successful in their missions. Analysts and operators need early warning capabilities and contextual information from a multitude of sources to help them inform countermeasures and make high-stakes decisions. Every Fortune 1000 company should have the capabilities in place such that when subjected to an information attack, they will be alerted and have the ability to respond quickly to reduce the impact. 

Effective today, Yonder customers can expect the same great insights and services they are used to, boosted by Primer’s resources, infrastructure, and expertise. They will also have access to Primer’s world-class pre-trained NLP models, including more advanced bot detection algorithms, synthetic text detection capabilities, and claim detection and extraction algorithms, to further enhance their ability to identify and understand emerging risks. 

Primer customers who are using Command, our NLP infrastructure, and our suite of pre-trained models to track and understand fast-moving crisis situations will have the ability to integrate Yonder into their workflows. They can get a high-resolution picture of the disinformation space they are operating within, easily understand what information they should trust, and identify what is likely to be an information operations campaign.

Primer offers a warm welcome to the Yonder team. These are the people that have defined and shaped the disinformation detection space and we are thrilled to work with them to accelerate our work on combating this growing and critical challenge.

For more information about Primer and how to request a Yonder demo, contact us here.