How Did Crossplag Go Global? The Success Story of a Kosovar Start-Up

While the world was captivated by the newest version of artificial intelligence, a Kosovar platform for identifying plagiarism, Crossplag, launched an Artificial Intelligence Content Detector to identify plagiarism written with AI.

If you have not already been part of the hype about ChatGPT-3, then it’s probably only a matter of time before you are. A programming language that has taken the world by storm, ChatGPT-3 can do a whole lot, from writing a poetry about Picasso in Shakespearean style to writing a cover letter for your next job application. 

This and other language programs produce original essays on any topic, in a matter of seconds. This has posed a serious problem for academia, as detecting plagiarism has become much more difficult. 

This has created a tremendous need for software that can detect writing created by  artificial intelligence. Teachers and professors in most universities have been looking for tools that can help them detect this advanced plagiarism. 

One such system called Crossplag, invented by Besart Kunushevci, a 28 year old boy from Prishtina, has won global reach. 

Three months ago, Crossplag launched a detector that is precisely trained to detect if an article is written with AI. Today, over 5,000 educators and faculty around the world are using Crossplag, including the world’s best universities, such as Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown.

Besart created Crossplag in 2016, but the company launched the first version of the anti-plagiarism system in Albanian and cross-language detection in 2018.

Crossplag founder Besart Kunushevci. Photo: Besarti’s courtesy.

Its founder, Besart Kunushevci started the journey towards this goal seven years ago. Upon returning from Thessaloniki, Greece, where he had studied Finance and Accounting at the University of Sheffield, the young man was looking for a job in Kosovo. After working for one year in an accounting office and then job shadowing at the administration of a private university.

Now Crossplag supports about 100 languages and has an archive of about 100 billion texts with which it compares sentences to identify whether they are plagiarized or not.

Kunushevci explained everything about the world of AI, the AI content detector and the global reach of his platform, in an interview with Prishtina Insight.

AI has raised a question inside the human brain: What does the future look like? 

During the interview, Besarti ‘commanded’ the Chat GPT-3 to write an article about youth and technology in Kosovo without giving it any context. He  then uploaded the text to Crossplag for detection and we immediately saw the arrow turn red – meaning that the article was written by AI. 

“So to see how original a piece of writing is, we do a [plagiarism] analysis within the English-English check, then an English-Albanian check, and finally an analysis of whether it was written by a human or AI,” he explained.

Plagiarism with AI is called aigiarism. But the system even detects cases when AI text is mixed with authentically original human work. 

The future with AI

Illustration for Prishtina Insight: Diellza Gojani/

“ChatGPT-3 is great to help humans to write, but not for humans to relax and let AI do all the work, because human beings start to degrade,” he told PI.

A collective fear has been created about the danger of technology replacing humans.

“There is no logic in writing with artificial intelligence and presenting it as our own work, but it can be used to give ideas, or comment on the way something has been written,” he added.

Although we are faced with technological advancements every day, the idea that a device created by the human hand challenges the intelligence of the  human brain, raises questions.

Such refinements help people to live more easily. While humans cannot stop the evolution of technologies to improve their living.

Kunushevci gave several examples of how AI, when used for good, has made human life easier.

AI can identify cancer in scanner images better than humans. If AI did not exist, there would be no anti-COVID-19 vaccines; SpaceX’s reusable rockets would not even exist; there would be no electric cars.

According to him, there will come a time when we experience ‘singularity’: the point when AI performs better than humans in every field. 

This singularity would involve computer programs becoming so advanced that AI surpasses human intelligence, potentially blurring the line between humanity and computers. 

Professions of the future

The professions of the future are those within the tech industry, including computer programmers, information security analysts, computer support specialists, software developers, network and computer systems administrators.

As a solution to reducing technological fear, Kunushevci sees training people in professions of the future, rather than the past, because they are all being automated.

“Many things that today we would not imagine life without, AI has made possible. That should be our focus. AI is our guide to live our lives,”  he explained.

“Since the beginning of human genesis, people kept creating tools that would be useful to them. Since then we have evolved to the point that we only need to think and things will be executed. This is not scary but it is the evolution of humans themselves,” he said.

Asked whether there is a possibility that one day the profession of journalism will disappear, Kunushevci countered that AI necessarily needs human input.

Media outlets will still need a journalist who interviews Besarti. However, the fact that AI can halve the number of journalists in the newsroom is not excluded.

Kosovo universities do not use any anti-plagiarism platforms

For several days in a row I tried to immerse myself in the ‘world of computer plagiarism’ by reading several reports on Crossplag.

I saw long texts that at first glance seemed original but which were filled with sentences shaded in blue, gray and pink colors to highlight plagiarism. With a tap on one of the shaded sentences I was able to see the exact source of the sentence.

“Translations are the biggest problem. This is where most plagiarism is found,”  said Kunushevci, demonstrating with examples.

But it turns out to be paradoxical that none of the public universities in Kosovo, including the University of Prishtina, UP, use anti-plagiarism platforms.

“When we see professors of world universities using our system it is the main success for us because we have developed a product that is solving the problems of even the largest universities in the world. When I see the UP that does not use it, it is a disappointment,” he expressed with concern.

According to him, UP has wasted two years of their time by constantly saying they will take the platform for use, but never keeping their word.

The European Network for Academic Integrity (ENAI) 2018 evaluation shows that Crossplag performed best in detecting copy and paste, with a rating of 2.8 points, and the lowest in detecting paraphrasing, with a rating of 1.9 points. Rankings improved drastically in 2020, where Crossplag is ranked 1st in single-source and 5th in multi-source.

Illustration for Prishtina Insight: Diellza Gojani.

“If we make it here we can make anywhere”

After many ups and downs for a new startup in a country with a fledgling technology sector Besart and his team managed to penetrate the world market. 

He said that in the beginning it was very difficult to operate in the market, to the point that three times they were on the verge of closing the company.

Kosovo is a difficult market for technological startups to operate in due to low GDP, little interest in technological services and lack of a special investment fund for this field.

“As Frank Sinatra said, ‘If we can make it here, we can make it anywhere!’ We started with this logic; Kosovo tempered us, maybe gave us some skills that no one else could. But it is making the process more difficult and increasing the probability of failure,”  Kunushevci said.

According to him,  the only innovation lab in the country that helped them develop, as well as almost all the other tech start-ups, was the Innovation Center of Kosovo.

“The survival of startups in Kosovo depends on grants, which is the biggest possible absurdity. Nowhere in the world has any business grown with grants. This made our  work ten times more difficult than other companies in the world,” he said.

According to him, Crossplag manages to export more services to external markets because there is no space to develop new products for domestic consumption in Kosovo and people still have subsistence problems.

“Digital products are not so much a need, as an improvement on something that already exists,” he said.

The company offers services to the foreign market because technology does not create any geographical limitations.

AI is the technological reality which marks the beginning of a new human era. Whether humans will be at the service of this technology, or vice versa, remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain, as much resources we dedicate to AI creation, as much should be dedicated to its control and regulation.

Blerta Begisholli contributed to this article.

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