A freedom of expression perspective on AI in the media – with a special focus on editorial decision making on social media platforms and in the news media


  • Natali Helberger University of Amsterdam
  • Max Van Drunen University of Amsterdam
  • Sarah Eskens University of Amsterdam
  • Mariella Bastian University of Amsterdam
  • Judith Moeller University of Amsterdam


AI-driven tools play an increasingly important role in the media: from smart tools that assist journalists in producing their stories to the fully automated production of news stories (robot journalism), from audience analytics that inform editorial decisions to AI-driven news recommendations. As such, AI-driven tools are more than simple tools. Within newsrooms, AI-driven tools exemplify potentially far-reaching structural changes in internal routines and divisions of responsibility between humans and machines. Within European media markets, the introduction of AI-driven tools brings with it substantial structural shifts and transformations of power. And from the perspective of users and society, AI-driven tools could result in new, smarter and more responsive ways of informing the public, but when applied wrongly, also have potentially a detrimental effect on the public sphere, on pluralism, privacy, autonomy and equal chances to communicate.

The right to freedom of expression in Article 10 ECHR is an important basis to inform law and policy makers on possible approaches to regulating AI in the media (including the European Commission’s ambitious plans for regulating AI), but can also more broadly inform our thinking about the potential and threats from AI for the realisation of freedom of expression, and the role of the media in that context. After an introduction to some of the recent developments around AI and algorithms in the news media, we will highlight some of the most pressing freedom of expression implications stemming from AI-driven tools in the news media. We will also show that the protection afforded under Article 10 ECHR comes with specific duties and responsibilities for the news media and reflect on the question of how to deal with AI-driven tools in a way that is compatible with fundamental rights and freedoms. Finally, we will explain that, while the introduction of AI-driven tools can create new opportunities for users to exercise their freedom of expression rights, the application of automated filtering and sorting can also result in new digital inequalities and unequal opportunities of access to information.





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