Tilburg University department Cognitive Science and Artificial Intelligence

Tilburg Algorithm Observatory

Most people search online to inform the decisions that really matter to them, such as decisions about their health, wealth, and who to vote for. We also know that the algorithms responsible for indexing, filtering, and sorting the information we receive can have a surprisingly strong influence on our decisions.

  • Henry Brighton

    dr. Henry Brighton

    Principal Investigator

Many billions of these human-algorithm interactions occur every day as a result of our fascination with services like social media, online shopping, and search engines.

These observations raise questions about the role of algorithms in our society.

Do algorithms work in our interests, or those of commercial entities? What political biases were your family members exposed to when reading online news this morning? What biases were Dutch teenagers in Amsterdam exposed to when using social media last week? The answer to these questions is that we don't know. And we don't know because the most influential algorithms operate without independent oversight and without leaving a paper trail.


Tilburg Algorithm Observatory

Tilburg Algorithm Observatory

The goal of the Tilburg Algorithm Observatory (TAO) is to monitor and analyse the biases and influences that people are exposed to when interacting with algorithms. In short, we create and monitor algorithmic paper trails.

Our focus is on the algorithms that drive, for example, social media platforms, online shopping services, and search engines. We believe that the primary means by which the social impact of algorithms should be studied is through independent, transparent monitoring.

Our research focus includes the design and implementation of monitoring infrastructure, and the monitoring process itself. Much like an observatory, we continually analyse the data we collect in order to understand with a broad view the kinds of algorithmic biases and influences that are currently affecting our society.


  • Chinese Academy of Sciences
  • Max Planck Institute for Human Development


  • Political bias and online news exposure