Mark Weber

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Fighting Crime in Cryptocurrency with Graph Learning

Anti-money laundering (AML) regulations have a critical role to play in safeguarding financial systems from nefarious actors, but they can also bear the unintended consequence of marginalizing low-income people. The advent of cryptocurrency with Bitcoin has introduced an intriguing paradox: pseudonymity allows criminals to hide in plain sight, but open data gives sophisticated investigators more power to identify illicit activity. Thus emerges the opportunity to reconcile the cause of safety with that of financial inclusion. In this talk, we will review experiments in developing and applying new machine learning methods to AML forensic investigation in Bitcoin. We will introduce and describe the Elliptic Data Set, a graph network of over 200,000 Bitcoin transactions with handcrafted features. We review benchmark methods and consider the potential for Graph Convolutional Networks (GCNs) to account for relational information. We present experimental results from a binary classification task predicting illicit transactions.

Mark Weber is an applied research scientist and strategy & operations lead at the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, an academic-industry partnership for advanced AI research. He also leads the lab’s business program with member companies, working to connect dots across disciplines to bridge fundamental research to real-world impact. Mark’s current works include graph deep learning for anti-money laundering and b_verify, a blockchain-based protocol for verifiable records in agricultural finance, pollution monitoring, and other use-cases. Prior to IBM Research, Mark was a graduate researcher at the MIT Media Lab’s Digital Currency Initiative and a fellow at the MIT Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship while he earned his MBA in finance from MIT Sloan. Classically trained in Notre Dame's intensive "great books" program, Mark spent the first chapters of his career focused on political economy and development. He produced three documentary films on these subjects, most notably the critically acclaimed film Poverty, Inc. Mark's recreational joys include ultramarathon trail running, reading, and experiencing new cultures.

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