How Much Algorithm Can Democracy Take?

Communication scientists study the effect of microtargeting in political campaigning
By: University of Vienna
VIENNA - Oct. 12, 2022 - PRLog -- Democracy can only work if citizens are able to take informed decisions. But what happens if a news feed is so incredibly personalised that nobody really knows what is actually presented to us, and from whom. Sophie Lecheler and her team at the University of Vienna are using experiments and 'data donations' to see what users see – and to understand political discourse in times of digitalisation.

Today's electoral campaigns have been shifted to the digital realm and political parties are using social media deliberately. Based on social data, such as age, gender and place of residence as well as pages we liked or posts we shared, we receive tailor-made electoral ads directly in our news feeds (such as on Facebook) due to algorithms. This type of political advertising is called microtargeting. How citizens are addressed by which political parties in which way in the digital realm has, however, become a black box for academic research due to new developments. Therefore, researchers have to rely on so-called data donations, i.e. donations by users who submit screenshots of their news feed and answer questions, or who install data donation apps allowing the team to follow ways in which users are targeted during times of electoral campaigns.

More information on the project and the work of Lecheler and her team here:


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Scientific contact:

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Sophie Lecheler

Department of Communication, University of Vienna

Kolingasse 14-16, 1090 Vienna

T +43-1-4277-49375



International Distribution

Dr. Barbara Bauder

PR&D – Public Relations for Research & Education

Kollersteig 68, 3400 Klosterneuburg

M +43-664-1576-350



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