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

Media and Talks

  • Frederik is quoted, in Dutch, in this article on a recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the Breyer case. The Court decided, in short, that and IP address is typically personal data. If information is regarded as personal data, European data privacy law applies. If data privacy law applies, companies must ensure, for instance, adequate data security. See in detail on the scope of the legal personal data definition: Frederik’s paper ‘Singling Out People Without Knowing Their Names – Behavioural Targeting, Pseudonymous Data, and the New Data Protection Regulation’,
  • On 25 October, Frederik speaks at the ‘Big Data debate’, organised by the Dutch Association of Insurers. Frederik will discuss the risks of unfair of even illegal discrimination that result from big data. More info here.

Big Brother Awards

On Thursday 6 October, Frederik speaks in a panel on Facebook, during the Big Brother Awards Belgium.

Joe McNamee (executive director of EDRi European Digital Rights) moderates the panel. Speakers are: Stephen Deadman (Facebook), Matthias Matthiesen (IAB Interactive Advertising Bureau), Brendan Van Alsenoy (Data Protection Authority Belgium), Estelle Massé (AccessNow), and Frederik.

See for more information:

Presentations at DGPUK Methods Conference

Judith presented the methodological background of the tracking data collection of our project at the German association of communication science method division.

And, on the question how to conceptualize such data as a network of news items and users, a second presentation of the Personalised Team, given by Damian: