Governing AI-driven virtual assistants


Theo Araujo is Assistant Professor in Communication Science and Co-Director of the Digital Communication Methods Lab, researching the adoption of AI and conversational agents within communication.


Thomas Poell is Senior Lecturer in New Media & Digital Culture, researching digital platforms and the transformation of public communication around the globe.


João Pedro Quintais is a Postdoctoral Researcher (permanent position) at the Institute for Information Law, researching algorithmic enforcement and content moderation by online platforms.

Project description

This project explores how AI-driven virtual assistants influence the provision and circulation of information at the individual and societal level. It asks how public values – privacy, personal autonomy and transparency – can be safeguarded in this form of automated communication and decision-making. Combining the strengths of Humanities, Law and Social Sciences, we examine how Google Assistant functions as: 1) a platform, integrating external organizations and shaping the circulation of news and information, 2) a social actor, being incorporated by end-users in their daily routines, and 3) a gatekeeper or intermediary, in light of the EU legal framework. The results of the research will be presented to and discussed with key stakeholders in a one-day symposium on virtual assistants, reflecting on the implications for organizations, policy and science.