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Manuscript deadline
03 May 2021

Cover image - Digital Journalism

Digital Journalism

Special Issue Editor(s)

Natali Helberger, University of Amsterdam, Institute for Information Law (IViR)
[email protected]

Judith Moeller, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam School of Communication (ASCoR)
[email protected]

Sarah Eskens, University of Amsterdam, Institute for Information Law (IVIR)
[email protected]

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AI, journalism & democracy: exploring the normative dimension

AI plays an increasingly important role on many levels in the process of making and distributing news: from smart tools that assist journalists in producing their stories to the fully automated production of news stories, and from audience profiling that informs editorial board decisions to the AI-driven recommendation of which contents and users to match. As such, AI-driven tools (defined here as “computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence”) are more than simple tools. They are part of a more structural transformation of what it means to make news, and to engage with the audience.

The integration of AI-driven tools into the journalistic process raises not only a host of challenging professional, technical and organisational questions. Intense debates about filter bubbles, privacy, shifting power dynamics, gatekeeping, editorial independence and the metrification of journalistic values and fundamental rights also touch upon the legal, ethical, societal and democratic implications that the use of AI in the media can have. Professional ethics, law and fundamental rights can have an important role in this transformation. They can move the debate away from questions of what the technology can do and what is technically possible, towards the question of what the technology should (or should not) be doing and implications for professional ethics and legal frameworks.

What are the normative implications of the introduction of AI-driven tools for the legacy media and its role to inform, to be a critical watchdog and provide a forum for public debate? What roles will AI take in the journalistic process, and where should or should not digital technology support, complement, or even replace humans? How can the privacy of users be guaranteed while offering them relevant and personalised choices at the same time? How can journalistic ethics and editorial oversight be upheld when stories are partially written by machines? Are the existing journalistic codes and professional principles useful to guide journalists and editors in an age of AI? These are just some of the many yet unanswered questions. A normative perspective can help editors and media professionals to make difficult strategic choices, guide the developers of AI-driven tools and inform policy makers and regulators how to create the conditions so that users can exercise their fundamental rights, and the media can fulfil its democratic mission. In so doing, this special issue also aims to contribute to the current initiatives in various countries to regulate AI.

We invite cutting-edge theoretical and empirical research from across the globe on the normative implications of AI for journalism and journalism research, and the democratic, ethical, and fundamental rights-related implications of the use of AI and data analytics in the media. We specifically invite young scholars to submit their work. We welcome contributors from a broad range of disciplines, including journalism, history, communication, and media studies, law, philosophy, STS, and computer science interested in the ethical and fundamental rights questions raised by the use of AI and algorithms in the media industry. We invite papers on, for example, but not exclusively:

- Theoretical and empirical contributions on the role of AI and algorithms in journalism and the democratic role of journalism,
- investigations into how the integration of AI and algorithms changes the political economy in media markets, creates new, or removes old institutional dependencies and the role of external parties such as tech companies,
- studies into how the use of AI and algorithms in the media affects the ability of citizens to benefit from their right to freedom of expression, to form and hold opinions, and to make informed political choices,
- how journalistic and public values such as diversity, objectivity, relevance, etc. can be translated and preserved in algorithmic design and routines,
- Governance and regulation of the use of data, AI and algorithms in the media,
- the role of fundamental rights, law and ethics in the digital media and potential areas of regulation
- comparative normative/legal work across different European/non-European countries

Looking to Publish your Research?

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Submission Instructions

Proposals should include an abstract of 500 words (not including references) as well as a full list of author(s) with affiliation(s) and abbreviated bio(s). Please submit your proposal as one file (PDF) with your names clearly stated on the first page. Send your proposal to Natali Helberger ([email protected]) no later than by December 3, 2020. Notifications of proposal acceptance will be sent no later than by December 22, 2020. Upon acceptance, Invited authors can thereafter submit their their original article for blind review in accordance with the journal’s peer-review procedure at their earliest convenience, and not later than May 3, 2021. Article submissions should target a length of 7,000-9,000 words. Accepted articles are published as OnlineFirst continuously, and approximately 4-6 weeks after acceptance. The special issue will be published once all articles are out and the guest editor’s introduction is completed.

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