anchor Helps companies, governments and other organizations track harmful narratives on social media platforms and elsewhere on the web. The company today announced that it has raised a $5.9 million seed round led by Madrona Venture Group, with participation from Cercano Management and others. The service was incubated inside Madrona Venture Labs.
“Pendulum’s platform applies AI and NLP technologies to uncover and track the dangers and opportunities inherent in narratives from the early days of their formation,” explains Hope Cochran, Managing Director of Madrona. “By dissecting and categorizing narratives into text, video and audio content on social media platforms, companies are better prepared and able to engage with communities. With support for YouTube, BitChute, Rumble and Podcasts currently available In the coming months, the platform will grow to include all the important social platforms.”
The team behind Pendulum seems uniquely suited to building a product like this. For example, co-founder Sam Clark worked first as a data mining engineer at Decide.com and then at eBay after that company was acquired. He also co-produced transparency tube, a project that categorizes and analyzes political YouTube channels. The Transparency Tube shares a considerable amount of DNA with the pendulum, and Clark then teamed up with Madrona to build a commercial product around this common idea of tracking misinformation and misinformation online. This is where he teamed up with his co-founder Mark Lists, who brings a lot of government experience to the team. Lists was previously the policy director for the US Election Assistance Commission and chief of staff for the National Security Innovation Network, where he helped manage the US Department of Defense’s enterprise engagement.
While Listes expected a fairly quiet time at the Electoral Assistance Commission, he clearly chose the wrong time to do so when he joined in 2016. “By November and December 16, the election location looked very different,” he told me. “We were dealing with foreign interference and intelligence briefs and everything under the sun. Long story short, over the next two and a half years, my colleagues and I were right in the middle of leading the effort to fight foreign interference out of our election system. We experienced it both personally and organizationally, and then helped us fight to get out of our overall system. Harmful narratives and the impact of that narrative, whether they be false—or propaganda or malicious narratives at large society may be affected.
Yet while Pendulum can be used by government agencies to track online narratives, it is a commercial service first. “We are commercial first,” Lists said. “Definitely an easy, intuitive government game here, but we’re really focused exclusively on the commercial sector first and we’re building some really powerful partnerships there.”
Lists stressed that for a platform like Pendulum to work, it would have to cover as many platforms as possible. It just isn’t enough to track Twitter, which doesn’t offer a representative sample of the population anyway, or YouTube. Because of this, for example, the pendulum also tracks the bitchute and rumble.
But Lists also noted that the pendulum is not in the business of judging the truth. “We have this really really powerful narrative tracking engine that doesn’t depend on whether something is true or false,” he explained. “We’re staying away from true judgment — and that opens us up to a much wider range of use cases.” This means the company can work with corporations, for example, that want to track narratives about a company’s officers and assets for communication but for security reasons.
Because it doesn’t want to decide whether something is true or not, the pendulum opens itself up for use even by nefarious actors. Lists argues that the company does not track any personally identifiable information, and that the team is quite aware of this possibility. “We’re building values to make sure we’re not in any way creating an unfair playing field or empowering malicious actors and things like that through the use of our tools.” They said.