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September 2015

Protecting children and teenagers from cyberbullying

At a glance
The challenge

Cyberbullying is an increasing challenge in a virtual world

The solution

New algorithm that detects negative messages

The outcome

Improved chat-filtering tools

What's next?

Ken is hired as a full-time data scientist at Two Hat Security

Kelowna-based Two Hat Security is in the business of making the online world a safer place for kids. The company provides custom chat filtering services for virtual world gaming clients that detects and blocks instances of bullying, sexting, profanity, and other types of undesirable content.

Although their filtering system is able to find malicious chat messages with high accuracy, Two Hat Security was interested in applying machine learning algorithms to automatically detect negative content. To help solve their research challenge, they turned to a Mitacs Accelerate internship with University of Alberta Computer Science PhD candidate Ken Dwyer.

Ken developed an algorithm that can accurately predict the risk of a chat message in a computationally efficient manner. His algorithm was able to identify a number of spelling variants of blacklisted words and evasive patterns that had previously gone undetected by human moderators. Ken’s findings provided Two Hat Security’s moderation team with new tools to increase their efficiency on an ongoing basis, resulting in client satisfaction through improved filtering quality.

Mitacs Accelerate allowed us to explore a new research area that we would not have had the resources or expertise to delve into. As a result, we developed several components that greatly improved our system. The project was a great synergy,” says Two Hat Security’s CEO Chris Priebe.

For Ken, the hands-on experience Mitacs Accelerate offers is second to none. “Mitacs Accelerate provides a wonderful opportunity to get industry experience and take what you learn in school and apply it to real-world problems. Similarly, I can apply the skills I’ve learned in industry to my research in academia.”

After completing his PhD, Ken will continue his role as a full-time employee at Two Hat Security as a lead data scientist.


Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and Alberta Innovates for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities: