Facebook to Open Artificial Intelligence Center in Montreal

By David George-Cosh and Jacquie McNish Features Dow Jones Newswires

Facebook Inc. plans to announce the opening of a new artificial intelligence center in Montreal on Friday, marking the latest move by a U.S. firm to tap into Canada's expertise in the technology, according to two people familiar with the matter.

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Facebook plans to relocate staff from its headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., and also tap local talent, one person said.

Facebook opened an office in Montreal in 2013 in a move to better serve Quebec and French-speaking businesses looking to expand their presence on the social network. It also has offices in Toronto and Vancouver.

In March, the Canadian government said it would dedicate 125 million Canadian dollars ($94 million) to develop AI research across the country, focusing on Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton, all cities with top universities that specialize in the technology. Part of that funding went to the Vector Institute, a Toronto-based organization aimed at luring top minds in the AI field. It has also drawn investment from Alphabet Inc.'s Google and Uber Technologies Inc.

Facebook's investment in Montreal comes within a year after Google opened a new artificial intelligence lab dedicated to deep learning, a type of machine-learning technology.

Facebook is relying more on artificial intelligence to improve its capacity to identify and block posts that include terrorist imagery, child pornography and fake news. Government officials in Germany and France have criticized social media for their slow response to removing fake news and hate speech.

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Google last year provided $3.33 million in grant funding to the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, an academic lab based at the University of Montreal that focuses on machine learning.

And Microsoft Corp. acquired Maluuba, an AI startup based in Montreal, in January for an undisclosed sum. The tech company's venture fund took a stake in Element AI, a Montreal-based startup, in 2016.

Write to David George-Cosh at david.george-cosh@wsj.com and Jacquie McNish at Jacquie.McNish@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 14, 2017 19:18 ET (23:18 GMT)