Join our Personalized Communication Preconference at Etmaal van de Communicatiewetenschap

On Thursday January 26, there will be a preconference about Personalized Communication organized by members of our team.

The preconference aims to contribute to the debate regarding personalized communication, by bringing together researchers from the Netherlands and Belgium that study personalized communication. By assembling these researchers, we aim to discuss research that addresses all fields of personalized communication, including journalism, political communication, advertising, health communication. By discussing our research, we aim to identify ongoing research regarding personalized communication, and address theoretical, methodological, and ethical issues related to this research. For instance, we want to detect where there may be theoretical and methodological differences and overlap and stimulate a discussion about these theories and methods. In addition, we hope to discuss shared research ideas, inspire researchers, and bring about new research collaborations.

Interested? You are very welcome to join the preconference!

Who: All researchers interested in personalized communication and that are going to Etmaal 2017
When: Thursday January 26, 10:15-11:15
Where: Tilburg University, Dante building, DZ6
More information:

Do your PhD in Law with the Personalized Communication project!

The Institute for Information Law (IViR) of the Law Faculty has a vacancy for a PhD candidate in Law.

In the digital media environment, user attention is scarce and competition for ‘eyeballs’ is fierce. Big Data analysis, algorithmic profiling and targeting readers with customised news and advertisements that match their individual interests are widely seen as potential solutions: ‘Everyone their own newspaper and personal headlines.’ The personalisation of news media content enables new financing strategies and means to capture the audience’s attention. But personalisation is also part of a more fundamental paradigm shift in the media’s role from public interest intermediary to personal information coach. This research will answer critical questions about the implications for newsreaders and society, and contribute to a new normative theory of the role of personalised media in a democratic society.

To do so, the PersoNews project integrates legal research, communication sciences and political sciences, undertakes comparative, normative and evidence-based research, and carries out experiments, interviews and surveys. The team performs quantitative and qualitative research to identify the user advantages, concerns and conditions of acceptability, as well as the drivers behind and the obstacles to news media personalisation, how they affect journalistic practices and whether they translate into new algorithmic journalistic ethics and self-regulation.

These insights feed into the legal-normative analysis, which will critically re-examine the existing regulatory and normative framework, identify gaps and make suggestions for future legal design. More concretely, the PhD research aims to critically examine the legal framework that protects the editorial independence of the media and ensures a fair balance between commercial pressures and the democratic mission of the media to inform. Advertising has always been one of the primary means of financing media content, and concerns about the integrity of editorial content vis-à-vis external influences are not new. Accordingly, media laws, e-commerce laws and unfair commercial practice laws in Europe have a long tradition of scrutinising the blurred lines between editorial content and advertising. An unanswered question that this PhD project will help to answer is to what extent the existing provisions are able to address new dynamics in the media value chain, new players, such as social networks, app stores and search engines, the growing influence of digital advertisers and ad networks, new forms of advertising in the media, and new challenges to media integrity.

Please find the application procedure and additional details here: PhD candidate in Law University of Amsterdam – Amsterdam — AcademicTransfer

Frederik comments in media on mass surveillance

The Court of Justice of the European Union decided an important case on 21 December 2016. In short, the Court prohibits mass metadata surveillance. The Court says that EU member states are not allowed to impose an obligation on telecommunications companies to store metadata of all telecom-users.

The Court says that mass metadata surveillance, even if it may help to catch criminals or terrorists, violates people’s privacy and data protection rights. The Court adds that metadata are just as sensitive as the content of communications. Metadata show, for instance, who you call and when. The Court says that such metadata are “no less sensitive, having regard to the right to privacy, than the actual content of communications.”

Frederik commented on the case for Dutch media:

The full judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union is here: 

For an analysis of metadata surveillance and human rights, see:

Frederik J. Zuiderveen Borgesius and Axel Arnbak, New Data Security Requirements and the Proceduralization of Mass Surveillance Law after the European Data Retention Case, Amsterdam Law School Research Paper No. 2015-41.

New Intermediares and Platforms: Challenges for Communication Policy and Research

We had an excellent panel on the policy aspects of digital intermediaries and platform at the 6th European Communication Conference in Prage. Balazs presented our take on the algorithmic control crisis, and our research infrastructure to address that by monitoring the development of individual filter bubbles, and the algorithmically curated public sphere. Natali presented a paper on shared responsibility regarding online platforms.

Frederik speaks at Privacy Platform meeting

On 9 November Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius participates in the Privacy Platform in Brussels (‘Automated profiling after the GDPR, more regulation needed?’), organized by Sophie in ‘t Veld. The event will address the topic of the potential risks of automated profiling, on whether the provisions on profiling in the General Data Protection Regulation will suffice, and on what can be expected of the revision of the ePrivacy Directive.

Chair: Ms Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP

  • Frederik Borgesius: Researcher at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam
  • Jeremy Rollison: Director EU Government Affairs at Microsoft
  • Sachiko Scheuing: Co-chair of FEDMA, Federation European Direct Advertisement Associations
  • Tal Zarsky: Professor at the University of Haifa

    More info:

Media attention for Filter Bubbles

This weekend, there was a lot of media attention on Filter Bubbles. On Friday, quality newspaper Trouw published a two-page story based on interviews with Judith, Damian, and Frederik. The piece reflected some outcomes of our research project, mainly that filter bubbles – at least in the Netherlands, at this point in time – are less of a problem than often assumed.

On Saturday, Damian was interviewed on Radio 1 (Argos) about the same topic, as well as about political microtargeting. You can listen to the fragment here.

Coincidentally, and not related to our project, also quality newspaper de Volkskrant published a large story on Filter Bubbles related to music. It discussed the relationship between the usage of Spotify and music taste, and also hinted at the need for diversity in a music recommendation algorithm, to prevent it from becoming ‘boring’.

New publication: Shrinking core? Exploring the differential agenda setting power of traditional and personalized news media

This paper aims to shed light on the impact of personalized news media on the shared issue agenda that provides democracies with a set of topics that structure the public debate. The advent of personalized news media that use smart algorithms to tailor the news offer to the user challenges the established way of setting the agenda of such a common core of issues.

This paper tests the effects of personalized news use on perceived importance of these issues in the common core. In particular, the authors study whether personalized news use leads to a concentration at the top of the issue agenda or to a more diverse issue agenda with a long tail of topics.

Based on a cross-sectional survey of a representative population sample (n = 1,556), we find that personalized news use does not lead to a small common core in which few topics are discussed extensively, yet there is a relationship between personalized news use and a preference for less discussed topics. This is a result of a specific user profile of personalized news users: younger, more educated news users are more interested in topics at the fringes of the common core and also make more use of personalized news offers. The results are discussed in the light of media diversity and recent advances in public sphere research.

This paper contributes to the ongoing debate about algorithmic news dissemination. While, currently, much attention is reserved for the role of platforms as information gatekeepers in relationship to the news media, maybe their ability to enable or hinder the audience in discovering and distributing news content is part of what really characterizes their influence on the market place of ideas.

Full text available here:  Shrinking core? Exploring the differential agenda setting power of traditional and personalized news media: info: Vol 18, No 6