The role of news recommendation systems in digital democracies

This project investigates how Swiss voters gather information online prior to elections and votes, i.e. how they use media portals, social media, blogs and other sources. The researchers are also studying how this behaviour affects the level of awareness, political polarisation and trust in democratic institutions.

  • Project description

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    Personalised and algorithmic news recommendation systems are increasingly influencing citizens’ media consumption. In the long term, they alter public opinion-forming processes and the structure of journalism. We will investigate how such recommendation systems affect the journalistic production of news, the public perception of topics and the trust in the performance of journalism. How can these systems be (re)programmed to prevent disinformation and loss of trust in the media? To answer this question we will conduct surveys, experiments and computer simulations.

  • Background

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    The increasing automation and personalisation of communication processes in digitalised societies have triggered a public debate on the democratic implications of algorithmic news or recommendation systems such as social media, search engines or news aggregation services. However, very little is known about the impact on the work of media professionals, the expectations and preferences of citizens, and the strategic choices of platforms.

  • Aim

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    The main goal of this project is to understand how algorithmic recommendation systems influence the work of media professionals, and public perception and trust in journalism. Furthermore, we aim to develop evidence-based recommendations on how such recommendation systems could be constructed and (re)programmed in order to meet the various normative requirements of an enlightened, pluralistically informed public.

  • Relevance

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    The project will provide a comprehensive overview of the implementation of digital strategies in the main Swiss and Dutch media organisations and will reveal the impact of algorithmic recommendation systems on trust in journalism. Of interest to media organisations and political actors: the project will also serve to formulate practical recommendations of public interest for improving the application and implementation of news recommendation systems.

  • Original title

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    The Role of News Recommender Systems in High-Choice Information Environments