Seville will house the European Center for Algorithmic Transparency | Technology
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Spain will house the European Center for Algorithmic Transparency (ECAT in its acronym in English), one of the main tools of the European Union to guarantee the proper functioning and control of illegal and harmful content on digital platforms and provide greater protection of the fundamental rights of Internet users, which are the objectives of the Digital Services Directive (DSA), one of the great legislative commitments of the European Union, which comes into force tomorrow. Specifically, the new body will have its headquarters in the Joint Research Center (JRC) that the Commission has in Seville.
“The main objective of ECAT is to promote greater knowledge and provide more transparency about the algorithmic systems that are behind digital services and it will have a crucial role in the regulation of the European Commission on the large platforms and search engines. on-line”, explains an official from Brussels. The center wants to start operating in January 2023 and to do so throughout this week the selection process for its staff will be launched, highly qualified profiles in the field of computing, economics or science associated with the Big Data, in artificial intelligence, in algorithmic systems or in algorithmic auditing and monitoring. 20 positions will be summoned, which will be added to the 10 experts who have already been hired to advance in the consolidation of the ECAT. All will be based in Seville, although 10 of them will also rotate between Ispra (Italy) and Brussels, according to the Commission official.
The ECAT has three main functions: to act as a technical support service for the Commission in compliance with the DSA; to be a vehicle for prospective knowledge and high-quality research; and promote the creation of a network around algorithmic transparency. “The goal is to better understand how algorithmic systems work, why one type of content is recommended to us and not another, why we get results in the particular order in our searches on-line… If we do that we can anticipate and prevent some of the unwanted and negative effects of these algorithmic systems that may end up offering illegal or harmful content to certain groups, such as minors”, points out the European official.
For the Commission, monitoring compliance with the new obligations that the DSA imposes on large digital platforms (those with more than 45 million users and representing 10% of the potential European market) is one of the fundamental axes of ECAT’s work. . The researchers at the new EU center will have to analyze the self-assessment that the Internet giants have to carry out, in accordance with the regulations of the directive, to find out what are the risks that these technological platforms and large search engines have previously identified. They will also participate in the audits and inspections ordered by Brussels to verify compliance with the law and will carry out a technical evaluation of the operation in practice of their algorithmic systems to determine if those risks identified by the platforms are controlled and have been well addressed. “It is important to make it clear that this type of action is not going to be carried out on its own initiative or independently, but that it will always be done under the mandate of the Commission,” warns the European official.
Brussels also wants the ECAT to act as a bridge between the academic world, European and foreign research groups and institutes, and the business sector, within its prospective research facet. “The idea is that we can engage with both academia and industry to make sure that we are getting the methodology right to make sure that algorithmic transparency is built into the design in the services that are offered to our citizens. Because we understand that having confidence in the way our digital services work will also increase business opportunities in the digital world,” says the Commission official.
The ECAT also wants to play an important role in disseminating the conclusions derived from its entire investigative process. “He will ensure that the research derived from his work can be easily available to the general public,” the official explains.
The DSA is an ambitious and pioneering standard, since it is the first to seek to establish a legal framework for the digital revolution, forcing the large technology platforms to guarantee transparency in their content moderation decisions and prevent unsafe products from being offered on markets or dangerous misinformation going viral or reaching groups of users who are vulnerable to this type of content. The European Union has not yet disclosed which companies are among what it calls large digital platforms (VLOPs), those for which the directive requires a higher level of transparency and accountability in that moderation. content, as well as for advertising and algorithmic processes and to which it imposes the obligation to assess the risks presented by its systems in order to develop management tools to protect the integrity of its services against manipulation techniques. The EU will review the list of these large companies every six months.
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