The European Centre for Algorithmic Transparency (ECAT) was launched in April 2023 to provide scientific and technical expertise to support the enforcement of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and further research into the impact of algorithmic systems deployed by online platforms and search engines.
What we do
The ever-increasing societal impact of online platforms such as social networks, online marketplaces, and search engines has created an urgent need for public oversight of the processes at the core of their businesses. The automated processes deployed to moderate content and curate information for users warrant particular scrutiny, as they affect everything from our social interactions to our news and entertainment consumption to our shopping habit.
At ECAT, our mission is to contribute to such oversight in two core ways. Firstly, we provide technical assistance and practical guidance for the enforcement of the DSA. Secondly, we research the long-running impact of algorithmic systems to inform policy-making and contribute to the public discussion.
Throughout our work, we take an interdisciplinary approach by integrating technical, ethical, economic, legal and environmental perspectives. We also engage with an international community of researchers and practitioners within academia, civil society, national public administrations and industry.
Platform assessments and investigations
- Algorithmic system inspections to support enforcement of the DSA
- Technical tests on algorithmic systems to enhance the understanding of their functioning.
- Advice on procedures to secure data access to regulators and researchers
Scientific research and foresight
- Study of the short, mid and long-term societal impact of algorithmic systems.
- Identification and measurement of systemic risks associated with VLOPs and VLOSEs and risk mitigation measures.
- Development of practical methodologies towards fair, transparent and accountable algorithmic approaches, with a focus on recommender systems and information retrieval.
Networking and community building
- Sharing of knowledge and facilitation of discussions on algorithmic transparency with international stakeholders.
- Acting as a knowledge hub for research conducted through data access provided by the DSA.
Algorithmic systems are used to identify, categorise, rank, suggest and present information to users. Those systems increasingly assist, influence and often replace humans in decision-making processes.
The DSA requires designated very large online platforms (VLOPs) and very large online search engines (VLOSEs) operating in the European Union to identify, analyse and assess certain systemic risks stemming from the design and functioning of their service and related systems, including algorithmic systems. Moreover, they must commit to addressing identified risks, directly or indirectly related to the functioning of the algorithmic system in use.
In addition to the Commission’s supervisory role, such risk assessments and any accompanying mitigation measures will be subject to an external independent audit and oversight by researchers and civil society.