The initiative

ICDS is an interdisciplinary research initiative into the way AI and algorithms  affect the role, impact and regulation of information and communication in the Data Society. Information and communication technology plays a central role in constituting societal practices and realizing democratic values and fundamental rights. AI and algorithms change established modes of communication deeply and profoundly, and the role that information (data) plays in our society – as a source of knowledge, power and governance. ICDS a joint research initiative between the Amsterdam School of Communication Research and the Institute for Information Law  that receives Priority Area Funding from the University of Amsterdam. These  two disciplines join forces to ask, and answer, fundamental questions about the role, uses and regulation of data-driven communication and communication infrastructures.

With an important shift from “mass communication” to personalised and automated communication, new theoretical approaches are needed and novel questions need to be addressed. Does more choice in the information environment lead to a disintegrated, self-centered public sphere, extreme opinions, and polarized electorates? Or does personalized communication and algorithms enhance knowledge and citizen engagement? Does microtargeting improve or impede democratic processes? How are algorithms and AI used to persuade people and steer their decisions? How do citizens develop strategies to cope with these AI developments? How far do and should citizens’ enjoy legitimate expectations of ‘privacy,’ ‘autonomy’ or ‘equality’? And how do we define evidence-based framework conditions for the integration of AI and data analytics into societal processes?


Our research initiative began in 2015 with a cooperation between information law scholars and communication scholars on the Research Priority Area Personalised Communication, with financial support from the University of Amsterdam. As time went by, the team grew larger as we secured additional funding. Our team now includes philosophers, journalism scholars, sociologists, computer scientists and AI experts that cooperate together on a range of projects. This shows how research into the societal, legal and policy implications of AI and algorithms is research that goes beyond the traditional disciplinary boundaries and established pathways. It shows how incredibly dynamic this field is.
Claes de Vreese & Natali Helberger

ICDS Founders

ICDS is led by Natali Helberger, Distinguished University Professor Law & Digital Technology and Claes de Vreese, Distinguished University Professor of AI & Society.

  • Contexts

    ICDS looks at the data society in different contexts. Information and communication play different roles in different sectors. We pursue research questions in a variety of sectors in society, including for example justice, health, politics and media. These are constitutive sectors of liberal western democracies.

  • Disciplines

    ICDS is a unique meeting place for scholars from different disciplines to collaborate on the topic. The initiative investigates the data society from a truly interdisciplinary perspective, combining expertise from fields such as law, communication, data science, ethics and digital methods.

  • Projects

    ICDS projects span from shorter (1-2 years) to longer multi-year projects. They cover different technologies, different contexts, and different methods. They are funded by university research funds, by science foundation grants, by ministries, and by private sector research grants.