Antwerp start-up’s software detects IS propaganda


The UAntwerp spin-off Textgain has developed software that recognises images distributed by terrorist cells such as IS

Fighting radicalism

Textgain, a spin-off of Antwerp University, has developed software that can detect photos distributed by members and supporters of Islamic State (IS). The software can be used to fight radical propaganda.

Textgain had already developed software to detect hate messages on Twitter, including IS propaganda. But supporters of IS changed their methods and began to communicate more via images, which computers couldn’t analyse.

With so-called deep-learning techniques, Textgain’s “neural network” studied thousands of photos shared by IS followers and by other users to be able to identify differences between the two. “Social media users generally share selfies and pictures of their pets, movies, sports heroes or food,” said Textgain CEO Guy De Pauw. “IS supporters mainly share photos of weapons, explosions, flags and fighter, both living and dead.”

The learning algorithm correctly analysis some 90% of the images. By including millions of more photos, Textgain plans to improve on this percentage.

“Our methods have already received a lot of attention, and the government has also allocated a budget for social media monitoring,” said De Pauw. “We are thus ready to apply this technique in practice.”