2 million euros for human-centered AI research

CWI will focus on developing new AI tools that strengthen the democratic function of media.

Publication date
28 Jan 2022

The AI, Media & Democracy Lab, a collaboration of UvA (project leader), HvA and Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI), has been awarded a grant of 2.1 million euros within the NWO call 'Human-centered AI for an inclusive society - towards an ecosystem of trust'. CWI participates in this research project with three of its research groups: Distributed & Interactive Systems, Human-Centered Data Analytics and Intelligent & Autonomous Systems. With this grant, researchers in the so-called ELSA Labs will work together with media companies and cultural institutions to increase knowledge about the development and application of trustworthy, human-centered AI. In total, NWO is honoring 5 applications in this call; altogether, more than 10 million.

CWI, as the national research institute for mathematics and computer science in the Netherlands, connects fundamental research for the digital society. This lab helps in furthering the leadership role of CWI on human-focused intelligent systems research in Amsterdam, and the Netherlands, focusing on societal relevant problems, like media and democracy, around human-centric AI key enabling technologies.

The AI, Media & Democracy ELSA Lab is one of the honored projects within the Economy, Domestic Governance and Culture & Media category, and investigates the impact of AI on the democratic function of media. Together with journalists, media professionals, designers, citizens, fellow researchers and public and civil society partners, the Lab develops and tests value-driven, human-centered AI applications and ethical and legal frameworks for responsible use of AI. The goal of the Lab is to stimulate innovative AI applications that strengthen the democratic function of media. It works with partners such as RTL, DPG Media, NPO, Beeld en Geluid, Media Perspectives, NEMO Kennislink, Waag Society, Gemeente Amsterdam, Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Commissariaat van de Media, Hogeschool Utrecht, Utrecht University, Cultural AI Lab, Koninklijke Bbibliotheek, BBC and the Bayrischer Rundfunk AI Lab.

Ton de Kok, director of CWI , is very pleased with the start of this research project: “The interface created between UvA, HvA and CWI connecting multiple disciplines on key themes in our society for the coming decades is of prime national and international importance. This milestone will be the starting point for intense and rewarding research with both scientific and societal impact."

Han la Poutré of CWI’s IAS group: "Disinformation is becoming a societal problem more and more. It is CWI’s mission to to contribute to solving such issues. That is why we are going to design ICT to tackle this, together with our research partners."

"This grant allows us to explore, together with our partners, how AI can play a role in the democratic and independent role of the media, the public sphere and citizens who want to be informed. With the AI, Media & Democracy Lab, we can make our contribution to independent innovation, but also to forming a vision of the future of media in our digital society." - Prof. Dr. Natali Helberger, University Professor of Law and Digital Technology at the UvA and co-founder of the AI, Media & Democracy Lab

Fundamental rights, human rights and support

The ELSA Labs (ELSA: 'Ethical, Legal and Societal Aspects') are co-creative environments where interdisciplinary and interrelated research is conducted on various technological and economic challenges we face as a society. The research financed with the NWO grant must not only contribute to technological innovations that safeguard public values and fundamental rights and respect human rights (and where possible strengthen them), but also gain public support.

About human-centered AI

NWO and the Dutch AI Coalition have launched, as part of the National Science Agenda (NWA), the program 'Artificial Intelligence: Human-centered Artificial Intelligence (AI) for an inclusive society - towards an ecosystem of trust'. The program promotes the development and application of trustworthy, human-centered AI. In this public-private partnership, government, industry, educational and research institutions and civil society organizations work together to accelerate national AI developments and connect existing initiatives. This NWA research program connects AI as a key technology with AI research for an inclusive society. In this process, the national research agenda AIREA-NL and societal and policy issues play an important role.

More information


  • CWI: Pablo Cesar (P.S.Cesar@cwi.nl), Han la Poutré (Han.La.Poutre@cwi.nl), Laura Hollink (L.Hollink@cwi.nl) and Nanda Piersma (N.Piersma@cwi.nl)
  • UvA:Natali Helberger (n.helberger@uva.nl) or Claes de Vreese (c.h.devreese@uva.nl)