Socio-legal and socio-technical systems
I bring a socio-legal approach to existing understandings of socio-technical systems. This approach draws on empirical legal research to understand (1) how interpretations of the law influence the construction of socio-technical systems, (2) how the interplay between legal and technological affordances influences human behaviour and (3) how democratic values and human rights are embedded in socio-technical systems.
My research has included looking at everyday interpretations of the German Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG), their implementation in interfaces and the consequences of those interfaces and legal interpretations for human behaviour. It also studies ways of making legally-mandated transparency data provided by online platforms more reliable.
Freedom of Expression and Content Regulation
A considerable part of my research agenda in the past decade has been focused on freedom of expression and online content regulation. This fascination started with the focus of my doctoral thesis at the European University Institute in Florence, which was published as a book on Governing Internet Expression. I analysed the Politics of Internet Filtering and how states govern Internet Expression, which led me to a wider interest in how dominant internet platforms shape what can be said online.
More recently, my interest in this research has led me to study in detail what content moderation looks like in practice on several large online platforms. Some of the results were published at the ACM Conference on Fairness, Accountability, and Transparency (FAT* 2020) while other research outputs of mine were cited as part of impact assessment for the EU’s 2020 Digital Services Act (DSA).
Human Rights and Technology
I believe that there is a considerable lack of scholarship studying technology and human rights. As a result, I edited a Research Handbook on Human Rights & Digital Technology with Matthias Kettemann and Kilian Vieth that was published with Edward Elgar in 2019. The first edition of the handbook was quite successful and we recently agreed to publish a second edition of the research handbook which is tentatively scheduled for 2023.
Human rights and technology remains a core element of my research in areas that remain significantly understudied areas like Internet shutdowns, the massive use of and trade in surveillance technologies, which are shaping the development of the wider media environment for citizens and civil society alike.
Artificial Intelligence, Algorithms and Automation
I have been working on automation, algorithms and artificial intelligence for some time, with a particular focus on regulatory and ethical aspects of these technologies. While there is a clear need for a greater understanding of the ethical tensions in algorithmic systems, ethical debates can also easily be used as a way to evade regulation.
There is a particular challenge with putting humans beings ‘in the loop’ to resolve these challenges, which often falls short leading to ‘quasi automation.’ My research on this topic also led me to draft the first policy paper of this kind for the Council of Europe and setup a research lab studying AI Futures in Rights and Justice at TU Delft.