(FINLAND)

Using artificial intelligence (AI) technology could be a game-changer in curbing the illegal trade of wildlife on social media, according to a new report.

A team of scientists from the University of Helsinki, Digital Geography Lab, wrote in the Conservation Biology journal that AI can help pinpoint criminal activity in this area.

“Currently, the lack of tools for efficient monitoring of high-volume social media data limits the capability of law enforcement agencies to curb illegal wildlife trade,” said Dr Enrico Di Minin, from the University of Helsinki. “Processing such data manually is inefficient and time consuming, but methods from artificial intelligence, such as machine-learning algorithms, can be used to automatically identify relevant information. Despite their potential, approaches from artificial intelligence are still rarely used in addressing the biodiversity crisis.”

The Finish-based researchers are using machine learning to automatically pick up posts dealing in illegal trading.

“Natural language processing can be used to infer the meaning of a sentence and to classify the sentiment of social media users towards illegal wildlife trade. Most importantly, machine learning algorithms can process combinations of verbal, visual and audio-visual content,” added Assistant professor Tuomo Hiippala.

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in protecting biodiversity. Innovators Magazine reported last month – for example – that an American team is applying an algorithm to detect wildlife poachers in ‘near real-time’.