CFP: Special issue of the Internet Policy Review on ‘Political micro-targeting’

The Personalized Communications project invites you to submit papers to the special issue we are editing at the Internet Policy Review on ‘Political micro-targeting’.

Data have become corner stones for political campaigning and strategies. Political parties increasingly use data-driven expertise and research to build extensive databases on citizens, voters. These data sets allow politicians to engage in political micro-targeting by addressing individual voters with tailor-made messages, attuned to their individual background, attitudes, beliefs, concerns, etc. During campaigns political micro-targeting can be used to personalise political advertising. Between elections they are often put to use to grow the voter base, mobilise voters in, for example, referenda, and keep their existing voters engaged.

Different systemic factors affect the tools, the scope, the depth, and the effectiveness of political micro-targeting in different countries. Laws on privacy and data protection define the limits of data collection and voter profiling. The particularities of national political systems define political priorities, campaign budgets, etc. The local media environment shapes the contours of the political debate. In addition, a complex network of organisations and intermediaries: marketing and survey companies, data brokers, canvassers, online intermediaries, such as ad companies, or social networking sites, and technology companies also shape the process of micro-targeting. As we have seen, some of these factors are inherently local, but global technological infrastructures, and supra-national platforms, such as Facebook, play an increasingly central role in the local political processes.

There are many pressing issues to discuss around political micro-targeting: what kind of data is collected on citizens? How are they profiled? How transparent are the processes of profiling and targeting? How transparent are the organisations involved? How neutral are the supposedly neutral intermediaries, such as Facebook or Google? How are political parties and campaigns changing due to micro-targeting? Does micro-targeting fulfil its promises of raising issue diversity, higher citizen engagement, or lowering the barriers of entry for new entrants? Is there evidence of the alleged dangers of micro-targeting: voter manipulation, voter exclusion, the fragmentation and polarisation of the political discourse? What are the novel, innovative methods with which this emerging phenomena can be studied?

Scope of the special issue

Recent or upcoming elections in the EU and the US offer the chance to take a look into political micro-targeting from multiple perspectives. Micro-targeting plays a different role in different local or national elections. Studies that discuss political micro-targeting in these various localities offer an opportunity to develop a comparative approach, and understand how local factors shape the use and effects of political micro-targeting. On the other hand, studies on international online actors, such as Facebook may help us understand how these global entities influence the local body politic.

The Internet Policy Review invites theoretical, empirical, and methodological papers on the topic of political micro-targeting to discuss an emergent phenomena via the lens of interdisciplinary research. Based on extended abstracts, a selection of contributions will be made. All authors of papers selected for the special issue will be invited to present and discuss their full paper at an expert workshop held in Amsterdam in September 2017. The purpose of the workshop is to enable exchange of ideas on this timely issue, and provide peer-feedback for the finalisation of the papers. A sub-selection of these papers will eventually make it into the special issue based on regular peer review.

Focus of the papers

We invite papers from social sciences, law, digital humanities, economics, critical studies, data science, and related sciences on any of the following, or related issues:

  • Analysing the extent to which political marketing is already taking place, the kind of data and practices that are being used, the actors involved
  • Political micro-targeting from a comparative perspective
  • The role of intermediaries, such as platforms, in political micro-targeting
  • Effects studies and experiences with political micro-targeting: does it work, and if so how and for which citizens?
  • The economics of political micro-targeting
  • Lessons learned from commercial micro-targeting
  • Drivers and obstacles to political micro-targeting
  • Political, democratic, cultural, economic, societal implications of political micro-targeting
  • Ethics and regulations of political micro-targeting
  • Novel, innovative methods to study political micro-targeting

Special issue editors

  • Claes de Vreese, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam (
  • Natali Helberger, Institute of Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam (
  • Balázs Bodó, Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam (

Important dates

Release of the call for papers: 24 January 2017

Deadline for expression of interest and abstract submissions (500 word abstracts) via the form below (see under SUBMIT): 2 April

Feedback / Invitation to submit full text submissions: 21 April

Full text submissions deadline. All details on text submissions can be found under 1 September

Workshop in Amsterdam: 22 and 23 September

Peer review process: 4 September – 30 October

Readying for publication: 1 – 15 November

Publication: 20 November 2017


Paper submission link: