University of Amsterdam: Shaping the technologies that impact our democracy


Democracies around the world are currently coming under pressure from both without and within. At the same time, western media landscapes are becoming ever more polarised. The rise of artificial intelligence is impacting both areas in unprecedented ways, further complicating the picture. The new AI, Media & Democracy Lab, which officially opened on Wednesday, 14 September, with an event in Amsterdam’s Eye Film Museum, will be working at the crossroads of the three areas, attempting to stimulate innovative AI applications that will actually strengthen the democratic function of the media. The Lab is a collaboration between the UvA, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) and Centrum Wiskunde en Informatica (CWI), the Dutch National Research Institute for Mathematics and Computer Science.

The board of the Lab is introduced (photo: Paul Suijkerbuijk)
The new Lab, which has been awarded ELSA status by the Dutch AI Coalition, will work together with journalists, media professionals, designers, citizens, fellow researchers and public and societal partners, to investigate the impact of AI on the democratic functions of the media. The researchers will develop and test value-driven, human-centric AI applications, as well as ethical and legal frameworks for the responsible use of AI.

Nanda Piersma, lecturer in Responsible IT and scientific director of the Centre of Expertise Applied AI (AUAS), and CWI researcher: ‘The application of AI is not trivial and should not be the final step of a research process. This lab will be a place to invent together. We will co-create in a sandbox setting, bringing AI solutions to the field step by step, by discussing, modelling, building, testing, and implementing, with loops for improvement phases in each step.’

The Lab – which has been awarded a grant of 2.1 million euros as part of the Dutch Research Council’s programme ‘Human-centred AI for an inclusive society: Towards an ecosystem of trust’ – will be collaborating with partners from around the Netherlands and across Europe, including RTL, NPO, the Dutch Media Authority, the Royal Library of the Netherlands, the BBC and the Bayrischer Rundfunk AI Lab, as well as many more.

Pablo Cesar, group leader of Distributed and Interactive Systems at CWI and professor of Human-Centered Multimedia Systems at TU Delft: ‘New technologies come with societal and ethical challenges related to information quality and audience interaction. One of our approaches will be to include algorithmic solutions against disinformation and polarisation. We will be looking for human-centric solutions to those challenges and also for increasing citizen participation.’

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