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Unitary secures €7.4 million to build a safer internet for the content generation

Born in London, Unitary is on a mission to transform content moderation, making the internet a safer space. The startup has just raised over €7.4 million ($8 million) to develop its solution. 

Content consumption is at an incredibly high level, right around the world. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with content on our phones, our laptops and tablets –  whether it be when we are scrolling on social media, listening to podcasts or researching online. Content is everywhere.

While the growing access to content and the increasing influence of social media isn’t going anywhere – and has become second nature to the digital native generation – the need to moderate content has grown. Content consumption can be great: it can educate, inspire and inform. But, on the flip side, it can be harmful and unsafe – especially for young people on social media. With an estimated 4 billion social media users worldwide, uploading more than 80 years’ worth of new footage to different platforms from Instagram to Tiktok, Reddit to YouTube every single day, the content moderation challenge continues to grow. The market is expected to reach $32 billion by 2031.

Tapping into this market are Sasha Haco and James Thewlis. Two entrepreneurs who met at Entrepreneur First’s accelerator programme and on a mission to automate content moderation. The duo have just secured a fresh boost of €7.4 million ($8 million) to scale. The funding was led by Ian Hogarth at Plural and strategic angels, including Carolyn Everson who is joining the board.

Founded in 2019, Unitary has been built by Sasha Haco, a mathematician who worked with Steven Hawking during her PhD, and James Thewlis, a computer vision specialist. The startup aims to protect communities from online harm, making the internet a safer space.

Sasha Haco, co-founder and CEO at Unitary, said: “The scale and speed at which harmful content can spread across social networks and the internet is only growing. Online platforms can’t handle the complexity of moderating these billions of daily images, videos and other posts, whilst human moderation has proven to be ineffective at dealing with the volume of content as well as being largely harmful to those involved. At Unitary, we’re committed to making the internet a safer place for everyone and with the support of investors like Plural, who understand the complexity of developing and scaling deep tech, we can see a clear route to making an impact on this snowballing problem that affects us all.”

The startup’s AI-based technology ‘reads’ the context of user-generated videos. It can then highlight video content that could be unsafe for particular users, platforms or advertisers. For example, it can see the difference between a video that glorifies hate speech and documentary footage that aims to raise awareness about hateful content, without a human reviewer needing to be involved. The tech dynamically scales up and down according to demand, reaching scales of 25,000 video frames processed in a single second.

Ian Hogarth, founding partner at Plural and co-author of The State of AI, said: “Sasha and James have chosen to tackle one of modern society’s hardest problems and we are in awe of their intellect and determination. Plural was founded to help startups like this apply cutting-edge machine learning to a critical global challenge. As more and more cameras are connected to the internet, we will need ever more intelligent tools to organize that content and make it harder for bad actors to operate.”

It’s currently used by social networks, ad tech companies and media businesses. Already, its open-source tool Detoxify has been downloaded over 2 million times.

With this new investment, the innovative team plans to further develop the technology and expand its market reach.

Carolyn Everson, angel investor and Unitary board member, said: “From my time working at Meta, I understand deeply the problem that Sasha and James are trying to solve at Unitary. We will all benefit from their mission to make the internet a safer, more enjoyable place to be and I look forward to working closely with the team to make this a reality.”

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Patricia Allen
Patricia Allen
is the Head of Content at EU-Startups. With a background in politics, Patricia has a real passion for how shared ideas across communities and cultures can bring new initiatives and innovations for the future. She spends her time bringing you the latest news and updates of startups across Europe, and curating our social media.

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