Personalised Communication

Understanding the use and effects of personalized media and their implications for law and policy


The term personalized communication captures the fundamental change in and challenges of, communication today: On the one hand, profiling and targeting users with customized messages can offer a solution to “digital” challenges, such as information overload, the resulting attention scarcity, and the fierce competition for users’ loyalty. Through personalized news content, search results, and apps, consumers can be addressed individually to match their consumption patterns and profiles; health information can be targeted and shared to enhance specific lifestyles; political information can be adjusted to individual voter profiles. On the other hand, personalized communication can lead to manipulated or biased communication that, in the worst case, deprives users of access to more meaningful or more diverse information. And the personalization of information offers unprecedented opportunities for abuse by stereotyping, discriminating, and sorting society into virtual profiles.

This research initiative focuses specifically on the uses and implications of personalized information and communication for individuals and society. Given the shift from “mass communication” to personalized communication, new theoretical approaches are needed to advance existing communication theories, and novel questions wait to be addressed.

The objective of this initiative is to conduct empirical and normative research on the uses, effects, and implications of personalized communication in the areas of politics, health, and commerce. This project has also a strong outreach function, integrating the perspectives from other research groups within and outside the UvA, initiating international cooperation, playing an active role in advising policymakers and stakeholders, and contributing to a lively public debate through the media and public lectures.

The Team

Claes de Vreese
Professor & ICDS Research Leader

Distinguished University Professor of AI & Society

Natali Helberger
Professor & ICDS Research Leader

Distinguished University Professor Law & Digital Technology, with a special focus on AI

Brahim Zarouali
Assistant Professor

Persuasion / algorithmic decision-making / personalization / online platforms / media effects

Paddy Leerssen
PhD Researcher

Information law / social media platforms / accountability / public archives / media pluralism

Tom Dobber
Postdoctoral Researcher

Political microtargeting / data-driven campaigning / algorithms / technology / elections

Joanna Strycharz
Postdoctoral Researcher

Personalised communication / online privacy / algorithmic persuasion / computational methods / ethics

Jef Ausloos
Postdoctoral Researcher

Data protection & data rights / transparency / information freedoms / online privacy / autonomy

Marijn Sax
Postdoctoral Researcher

Ethics / health apps / digital choice architectures / autonomy and manipulation / privacy

Judith Möller
Associate Professor

Public sphere / curated news flows / civic engagement / algorithmic divides / affordances in digital media



Bodó, B. (2019). Selling news to audiences–a qualitative inquiry into the emerging logics of algorithmic news personalization in European quality news media. Digital Journalism7(8), 1054-1075. [HTML]

Helberger, N. (2019). On the democratic role of news recommenders. Digital Journalism7(8), 993-1012. [HTML]

Möller, J., van de Velde, R. N., Merten, L., & Puschmann, C. (2019). Explaining Online News Engagement Based on Browsing Behavior: Creatures of Habit? Social Science Computer Review[HTML]


Bodó, B., Helberger, N., Eskens, S., & Möller, J. (2018) Interested in diversity: The role of user attitudes, algorithmic feedback loops, and policy in news personalization. Digital Journalism. [HTML]

Thurman, N., Möller, J., Helberger, N., & Trilling, D. (2018). My Friends, Editors, Algorithms, and I: Examining audience attitudes to news selection. Digital Journalism[HTML]

Bol, N., Kruikemeier, S., Boerman, S.C., Strycharz, J.,  de Vreese, C.H., Dienlin, T., Sax, M., & Helberger, N. (2018). Understanding the Effects of Personalization as a Privacy Calculus: Analyzing Self-Disclosure Across Health, News, and Commerce Contexts. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. [HTML]

Möller, J., Trilling, D., Helberger, N., & van Es, B. (2018). Do not blame it on the algorithm: an empirical assessment of multiple recommender systems and their impact on content diversity. Information, Communication & Society. [HTML]

Borgesius, F. J. Z., Möller, J., Kruikemeier, S., Fathaigh, R. Ó., Irion, K., Dobber, T., … & de Vreese, C. (2018). Online Political Microtargeting: Promises and Threats for Democracy. Utrecht Law Review14(1). [HTML]

Sax, M., Helberger, N., Bol, N. (2018). Health as a means towards profitable ends: mHealth apps, user autonomy, and unfair commercial practices. Journal of Consumer Policy, 41(2), 103-134. [HTML]

Bol, N., Helberger, N., & Van Weert, J. C. M. (2018). Differences in mobile health app use: A source of new digital inequalities? The Information Society, 34(3), 183-193. [HTML]