Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spui25: Who controls the algorithms?

The Personalised Communication team organised an engaging afternoon panel discussion at academic-cultural center Spui25 in Amsterdam: “Who controls the algorithms?.


The topic of the discussion was algorithms in the online information environment, and if and how we should control them. Sanne Kruikemeier presented some ongoing research about how citizens view the algorithmic society, how concerned citizens are about algorithms, and to what extent citizens are actually able to protect themselves against algorithms. Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius discussed algorithmic pricing in e-commerce, and asked if this is fair, or if it is maybe only fair if rich people pay more, or if just pricing based on illegal discrimination is unfair. Sarah Eskens reviewed some of the arguments that are made against regulating algorithms, and challenged the audience to think about regulatory options by explaining different regulatory strategies and regulatory examples from other (information) law areas. Marleen Elshof from the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Science talked about the effect of algorithms on public objectives in media policy, and the questions that policy makers struggle with in this area. Balázs Bodó moderated the event and the discussion that followed with the audience.

ACHC Symposium on “Mobile Health”

On 18 April 2017, together with the RPA Personalised Communication and NeFCA, the Amsterdam Center for Health Communication (ACHC) is organizing a symposium titled “Mobile Health: Challenges and opportunities to promote healthy behaviors with technology”. The University of Amsterdam will be hosting this event (at Roeterseiland C-building, room C10.20). Entrance to the symposium is free. The symposium will be in Dutch and you may register through this link.

We hope to see you there!

Click on this link for the program: achc-symposium-on-mobile-health

SWOCC Meeting about Personalized Communication, March 21

On Tuesday, March 21, SWOCC (Stichting Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Commerciële Communicatie) is organizing a meeting about Personalized Communication. This meeting is the official launch of Joanna Strycharz’s PhD project about Personalized Communication.

Many of our team members will present their work. The meeting takes place at CREA and starts at 13:00.


dr. Sophie Boerman
Assistant professor Communicatiewetenschap – UvA

prof. dr. Natali Helberger
Hoogleraar informatierecht – Instituut voor informatierecht

dr. Sanne Kruikemeier
Assistant professor Communicatiewetenschap – UvA

Jaime Infante Ferreira, MSc
Operations manager – Lead Today

Joanna Strycharz, MSc
Promovendus – SWOCC/UvA

For more details, see the official invitation

Claes de Vreese and Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius in the media on political microtargeting

Journalist Maurits Martijn wrote a piece on Cambridge Analytica, the online political microtargeting company. The company essentially applies behavioural targeting marketing techniques to political campaigns. Martijn questions whether Cambridge Analytica is really that powerful, and whether it really caused Trump to win the US elections. Both Claes de Vreese and Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius are quoted in the piece.

CFP: Special issue on ‘Political micro-targeting’ @ the Internet Policy Review

The Personalised Communications project edits a special issue for the Internet Policy Review on political microtargeting.

Here is the CFP. More info here.

Data have become corner stones for political campaigning and strategies. Political parties increasingly use data-driven expertise and research to build extensive databases on citizens, voters. These data sets allow politicians to engage in political micro-targeting by addressing individual voters with tailor-made messages, attuned to their individual background, attitudes, beliefs, concerns, etc. During campaigns political micro-targeting can be used to personalise political advertising. Between elections they are often put to use to grow the voter base, mobilise voters in, for example, referenda, and keep their existing voters engaged.

Different systemic factors affect the tools, the scope, the depth, and the effectiveness of political micro-targeting in different countries. Laws on privacy and data protection define the limits of data collection and voter profiling. The particularities of national political systems define political priorities, campaign budgets, etc. The local media environment shapes the contours of the political debate. In addition, a complex network of organisations and intermediaries: marketing and survey companies, data brokers, canvassers, online intermediaries, such as ad companies, or social networking sites, and technology companies also shape the process of micro-targeting. As we have seen, some of these factors are inherently local, but global technological infrastructures, and supra-national platforms, such as Facebook, play an increasingly central role in the local political processes.

There are many pressing issues to discuss around political micro-targeting: what kind of data is collected on citizens? How are they profiled? How transparent are the processes of profiling and targeting? How transparent are the organisations involved? How neutral are the supposedly neutral intermediaries, such as Facebook or Google? How are political parties and campaigns changing due to micro-targeting? Does micro-targeting fulfil its promises of raising issue diversity, higher citizen engagement, or lowering the barriers of entry for new entrants? Is there evidence of the alleged dangers of micro-targeting: voter manipulation, voter exclusion, the fragmentation and polarisation of the political discourse? What are the novel, innovative methods with which this emerging phenomena can be studied?
Scope of the special issue

Recent or upcoming elections in the EU and the US offer the chance to take a look into political micro-targeting from multiple perspectives. Micro-targeting plays a different role in different local or national elections. Studies that discuss political micro-targeting in these various localities offer an opportunity to develop a comparative approach, and understand how local factors shape the use and effects of political micro-targeting. On the other hand, studies on international online actors, such as Facebook may help us understand how these global entities influence the local body politic.

The Internet Policy Review invites theoretical, empirical, and methodological papers on the topic of political micro-targeting to discuss an emergent phenomena via the lens of interdisciplinary research. Based on extended abstracts, a selection of contributions will be made. All authors of papers selected for the special issue will be invited to present and discuss their full paper at an expert workshop held in Amsterdam in September 2017. The purpose of the workshop is to enable exchange of ideas on this timely issue, and provide peer-feedback for the finalisation of the papers. A sub-selection of these papers will eventually make it into the special issue based on regular peer review.

Source: Special issue on ‘Political micro-targeting’ | Internet Policy Review

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