Unbound invests $2.8M in disinformation-busting content platform Frankli
LONDON, March 17, 2023 - New content platform Frankli, which uses tamper-proof technology to authenticate photographs and videos, has received $2.8m of funding from investment firm Unbound.
Led by entrepreneur Shravin Mittal, Unbound is backing the social platform, whose mission is to give all content definitive proofs of originality and to eradicate deepfake videos and false images from the Internet.
With a sharp increase in the prevalence of generative content through artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies like DALL-E, alongside fake news propaganda, Frankli believes it is perfectly poised to capture an audience of users sick of online filters, manipulated content, bots and lies. There has been a rapid sophistication and proliferation of such content over the past three years with technology developing at pace alongside Russia’s war in Ukraine and the global pandemic.
Frankli and OpenOrigins Founder Dr. Mansoor Ahmed-Rengers says: “Frankli is a content platform where we can definitively say that every piece of photography and video is not edited, faked, or touched up in any way. With the deployment of tamper-proof technology, users can have confidence that what they are viewing has traceable provenance, is genuine and truthful. Users are even able to take the content they made on Frankli and prove it’s truthfulness on other platforms. Frankli restores trust and brings authenticity to users who are confused and angered by an internet plagued by fakery.
“When the Ukraine invasion began, there were photos from previous wars that were being passed off as from being from Ukraine. And when the earthquake happened in Turkey and Syria, previous earthquake photos were presented as being current even by major news organisations. With our system, that mistake would be impossible to make. I am very confident that our database is tamper proof so that once something has been uploaded it won't be modifiable. Once a photo is posted on Frankli in 2023, it can never be passed off as being from 2025.”
Frankli’s technology, invented by its umbrella company OpenOrigins, enables the app to determine an exact location and time that images were captured. The moment these images are recorded they are then stored securely on a tamper-proof database so they cannot be manipulated. By securing content and metadata using robust cryptography and blockchain infrastructure, Frankli hopes to build trust with an audience seeking truth.
Traditional social media businesses have come under criticism for allowing distortion, false content, propaganda and deepfakes on their platforms. A recent investigation by the BBC’s Disinformation Correspondent for the broadcaster’s flagship news programme Panorama spoke to whistleblowers at Twitter alarmed by a reduction in staff numbers monitoring dangerous content and disinformation at the social media giant.
Frankli is the latest in a string of investments for Mittal and Unbound, whose goal is to build and back a new generation of companies that will last for more than a hundred years.
Dr. Ahmed-Rengers added: “We are very excited to be working with Unbound and its investment is helping us to deliver authenticity in this age of disinformation. One of the biggest issues that we have in social media is that when someone uploads a piece of content we don't know where it has come from. That's because social media platforms don't do sufficient checks on the source of the content.
What we are doing is making sure that content captured within the app originates from a genuine device, from a real human being and not a bot. We know the exact location and time the images were captured. These are then stored securely on a tamper-proof database so that, when millions of people see that piece of content, they can be sure that what they are seeing is real and not a forgery. Through this honest and ethical digital provenance technology we are fighting for truth in a world of fake news and images.
For the first time in the history of the internet, you will be able to truly believe what you are seeing.
Dr. Mansoor Ahmed-Rengers
CEO of Frankli
Frankli and Unbound believe that the technology could be embedded in systems in the intelligence, security, legal and insurance sectors particularly, as it can guarantee provenance of images and evidence. They are convinced that the technology will also offer appeal to media companies as it can speed up the process of checking the veracity of content before publication.
The start-up has worked for more than two years alongside some of the world’s leading cybersecurity experts to be certain its technology is secure and robust.
Dr. Ahmed-Rengers continued: “We can be sure that we have done everything that is humanly possible to make sure that our database, our source of truth if you like, is tamper-proof. We live and die on this - this is the root of trust. So, we have gone to incredible lengths to ensure that it is completely secure.”
The platform does not plan on carrying advertising as it believes this would compromise its vision of spreading trustworthy information. Instead, it will share revenue with users from licensing newsworthy content to media companies.
Dr. Ahmed-Rengers developed the technology during his computer security PhD research at the University of Cambridge. His work has been peer reviewed by the best minds in computer security and he also designed a whistleblowing system that protects the anonymity of whistleblowers under pervasive surveillance which is being implemented by a major news organisation.
Frankli is the first product from OpenOrigins to reach market, with the company having their eyes on many other societal problems caused by technical disinformation, misrepresentation especially fuelled by the recent rampant growth of AI.
As we are all surrounded by such a tsunami of disinformation and lies, Frankli is clearly a highly relevant and vital tech business. The world needs it.
Founder of Unbound
“We are proud to back a such a potentially disruptive technology that is building a new trust infrastructure for the entire internet. The utility of such a platform is undeniable and it should last a hundred years or more, which is at the heart of Unbound’s ethos.”
Note to editors
About Dr. Mansoor Ahmed-Rengers
Mansoor is the Founder of Frankli and OpenOrigins. He previously completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge where he invented several cybersecurity and privacy-preserving technologies.
He has a long-held interest in the domains of disinformation, blockchains systems and designing secure systems under adversarial conditions. His work at Cambridge focused on developing mechanisms to maintain the security of distributed systems under extremely adversarial settings which laid the foundation for his architectural thinking as he set up OpenOrigins in 2021.
In addition to his role at Frankli, he is also a researcher at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Computer Science and Technology, where he helps design the next generation of massively distributed secure time-stamping services. He has also worked as a security engineer at RKVST and at nCipher Security. Before his move to Cambridge, Mansoor was a researcher at ETH Zurich where he finished his Master's degree developing tools for trusted execution technologies.
Currently, he is particularly interested in media manipulation tools such as deepfakes and generative AI and how to combat these as they become more mainstream. He has written several articles and academic papers, and has given talks at various conferences on this topic.
Frankli is a social app that enables users to create verifiably real content. The platform's proof-centred approach to content creation ensures that all content is authentic and unaltered. With Frankli, users can share their stories without fear of manipulation or misrepresentation. The company's leadership team, including founders Dr. Mansoor Ahmed-Rengers, brings a wealth of expertise in the technology and media industries to the table, and is dedicated to providing a platform that empowers users to tell their stories without fear of censorship or manipulation.
Founded in 2017, Unbound is an investment firm based in London.
Shravin Mittal is Unbound’s Founder and the group is a globally-focused long-term technology investment firm that aims to build and back disruptive technology companies. It hopes to nurture a portfolio of businesses that will trade for one hundred years or more.