The emerging regulatory framework for algorithmic decision making in the media

Partners: University of Amsterdam & Utrecht University
Type: PhD
Duration: 2023—2026

In recent years, the media landscape has undergone a structural transformation as dominant digital platforms have profoundly impacted the production, distribution, consumption and monetisation of news. This transformation raises critical questions about the power dynamics between digital platforms and the press, especially in light of the European Union's evolving regulatory framework and the technological advancements (notably in General Purpose AI). 

The core issue at hand is understanding how these structural shifts are reshaping the political economy of media, especially in relation to their dependence on digital platforms, and ultimately affecting the media's capacity to serve the public interest. As a result, this research project is interested in looking into the complex interplay of power dynamics among platform governance stakeholders and how this is influenced and reshaped in the context of the EU's emerging regulatory framework.

Research questions

This project aims to dissect the complex relationship between digital platforms and the press within the EU's regulatory context by addressing two main research questions:

How are EU regulations and global technological advancements affecting the structural and institutional dynamics of the relationship between digital platforms and the press?

In what ways do these structural shifts impact the operational logics of news production, distribution, and monetisation, and what implications does this have for journalism's role in serving the public interest?

Methodological approach

The project employs a conceptual framework that frames news media as complementors to platform firms and their ecosystems, highlighting dependencies and power relations.

It utilises insights from critical media, platform studies, infrastructure studies, legal studies, and political economy to analyse and articulate the shifting dynamics in the platform-press relationship, focusing on concepts such as power, governance, dependencies, capture, and value.

The project conducts a systematic analysis of relevant EU regulatory texts and technological developments to map out the ecological and governance changes affecting media platforms. It also conducts case studies that focus on the institutional aspect of the platform-press relationship, such as agreements among relevant players in this field.

Expected outputs

The project produces a comprehensive analysis that:

  • Identifies and theorises the changing power dynamics between platforms and the press at both structural and institutional levels.
  • Offers insights into how these changes affect the ability of the media to support the public interest and realise public values.
  • Suggests pathways for future research, including the potential impacts on non-mainstream and local news organisations.

Concretely, this means that it will produce at least 3 academic publications, several blog posts and presentations in both academic and news industry conferences.

This research project directly contributes to the AlgoSoc goals by addressing its ecology and governance research questions. By offering a critical examination of power dynamics and governance structures in the digital media ecosystem, is also enriches the program's interdisciplinary nature, while it simultaneously bridges legal, media studies and political economy perspectives, thereby facilitating collaboration and knowledge exchange between disciplinary communities with the AlgoSoc consortium.

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