The event brings together representatives from EU institutions, academia, civil society and industry to discuss the main challenges and the importance at a societal level of having oversight of how algorithmic systems are used. Following a video message by Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton, the audience will dive into the current and planned work of ECAT, including a preliminary showcase of its potential through live demos.
The role of ECAT under the Digital Services Act
The Digital Services Act imposes risk management requirements for companies designated by the European Commission as Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines. Under this framework, designated platforms will have to identify, analyse and mitigate a wide array of systemic risks on their platforms, ranging from how illegal content and disinformation can be amplified through their services, to the impact on the freedom of expression or media freedom. Similarly, specific risks around gender-based violence online and the protection of minors online and their mental health must be assessed and mitigated. The risk mitigation plans of designated platforms' and search engines will be subject to an independent audit and oversight by the European Commission.
ECAT will provide the Commission with in-house technical and scientific expertise to ensure that algorithmic systems used by the Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines comply with the risk management, mitigation and transparency requirements in the DSA. This includes, amongst other tasks, the performance of technical analyses and evaluations of algorithms. An interdisciplinary team of data scientists, AI experts, social scientists and legal experts will combine their expertise to assess their functioning and propose best practices to mitigate their impact. This will be crucial to ensure the thorough analysis of the transparency reports and risk self-assessment submitted by the designated companies, and to carry out inspections to their systems whenever required by the Commission.
This mission could not be attained without proper research and foresight capacity, which are also inherent to ECAT's approach. JRC researchers will build on and further advance their longstanding expertise in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has already been instrumental in the preparation of other milestone pieces of regulation like the AI Act, the Coordinated Plan on AI and its 2021 review. ECAT researchers will not only focus on identifying and addressing systemic risks stemming from Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines, but also investigate the long-term societal impact of algorithms.
On 15 December 2020, the Commission made the proposal on the DSA together with the proposal on the Digital Markets Act (DMA) as a comprehensive framework to ensure a safer, more fair digital space for all. Following the political agreement reached by the EU co-legislators in April 2022, the DSA entered into force on 16 November 2022. The deadline for platforms and search engines to publish the number of their monthly active users was on 17 February 2023. The Commission is now in process of analysing the publications with a view to designating Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines, which will have four months from the designation to comply with all DSA obligations and in particular to submit their first risk assessment. By 17 February 2024 the DSA will apply to all intermediary services; by the same date Member States are required to appoint Digital Services Coordinators.
The DSA applies to all digital services that connect consumers to goods, services, or content. It creates comprehensive new obligations for online platforms to reduce harms and counter risks online, introduces strong protections for users' rights online, and places digital platforms under a unique new transparency and accountability framework. Designed as a single, uniform set of rules for the EU, these rules will give users new protections and businesses legal certainty across the whole single market. The DSA is a first-of-a-kind regulatory toolbox globally and sets an international benchmark for a regulatory approach to online intermediaries.
For More Information
EU Official Journal text on the DSA
With multidisciplinary expertise, the team at the European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency is going to look under the hood of the Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines for the first time to see how their algorithms function and contribute to the spread of illegal and harmful content, which too many Europeans have been exposed to.
Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age - 17/04/2023
We are building up a strong capacity in the Commission to supervise the biggest and most innovative tech companies. The DSA gave the legal tools to open up the black box of platforms’ algorithms. The technical expertise at ECAT will be crucial to achieve this objective.
Thierry Breton, Commissioner for Internal Market - 17/04/2023
Research and science are the backbone of the digital transformation. The Digital Services Act is opening, for the first time, access to researchers to data from the Very Large Online Platforms and Very Large Online Search Engines. In this light, ECAT will foster the creation of a worldwide research community.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth - 17/04/2023
- Publication date
- 18 April 2023
- Representation in Cyprus