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News article24 November 2022Representation in Cyprus

Online platforms: a European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency for a safer online space

Mitigating the increasing societal impact of online platforms, including online marketplaces and search engines, is at the core of the EU legislation over digital service

ecat

Online platforms: a European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency for a safer online space

The Digital Services Act, entered into force on 16 November, calls for increased oversight of the algorithmic systems at the core of online platforms’ business. This includes in particular how these platforms and search engines moderate content and how they propose information to their users: for instance, a video streaming service may use algorithms to suggest videos that could interest its users.

To support the enforcement of these rules with top-level technical and scientific expertise, the Joint Research Centre (JRC) is setting up a European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency (ECAT). As many other emerging digital technologies, algorithmic systems can bear unintended risks, especially as they keep evolving at a very high pace. Having a sound understanding of how the technology works is crucial to supervise its impact, making the ECAT a crucial tool for the Commission's digital regulation. To enlarge the current team and ensure the Commission is equipped with the best talent in the field, the JRC has launched a recruiting campaign looking for experts in data science, algorithmic design, algorithmic auditing and other closely linked fields. The ECAT will support the Commission in assessing whether the functioning of algorithmic systems behind digital services is in line with the risk management obligations that the DSA establishes for online platforms. Head of Unit for Digital Economy at JRC, Carlos Torrecilla Salinas explains:

- “What we aim for, ultimately, is to understand better how algorithmic systems work. These systems can make autonomous decisions about which content and search result to display. We want to make sure that this decision-making process is transparent, so that citizens can understand why certain contents or products are offered to them.”

- “ECAT is part of the strategy that the Commission has put in place to enforce the Digital Services Act (DSA). The DSA empowers the Commission to have access to certain data from online platforms. Thanks to the team of experts that will work at ECAT, we will be able to analyse those data, understand it better and ultimately explain it better to European citizens.”

Operating at arm’s length from the regulator, researchers working at the ECAT will help improve our understanding of how algorithms work: they will analyse platforms self-risk assessments and transparency reports, assess potential systemic risks, and propose new methodological approaches and best practices for algorithmic transparency to mitigate them. The Centre will have its main seat at JRC Seville site, where most of its staff is currently located, but it will be a multi-site centre with staff also based in Brussels and JRC Ispra (Italy). It will also become a gravity centre for the international community of researchers and auditors in the field, acting as a knowledge hub for vetted researchers analysing data provided by the regulation

 

ECAT website: https://algorithmic-transparency.ec.europa.eu/index_en 

Vacancies: https://algorithmic-transparency.ec.europa.eu/work-ecat_en (to be published shortly)

Details

Publication date
24 November 2022
Author
Representation in Cyprus