The European Research Council Starting Grant project HUMANads, hosted at Utrecht Centre for Regulation and Enforcement in Europe (RENFORCE) within the Utrecht University School of Law is hiring a postdoctoral researcher in the field of media studies, who can do qualitative empirical research on the topic of native advertising by content creators on social media, under the supervision of dr. Catalina Goanta (Utrecht University) and dr. Sophie Bishop (Sheffield University).
Content monetization reflects a new era of social media business models, changing the nature of digital advertising from platform to human ads. Human ads are Internet influencers (also referred to as content creators) who earn revenue from social media advertising by creating authentic, relatable advertising content for their armies of followers. While their activity has been touted as a new form of creative labour, the overlap between their freedom of expression, political thought and advertising interests raises some serious concerns. One underlying danger is the convergence of speech in two ways. Consumers and citizens can no longer distinguish (i) between ads and non-ads, and (ii) between commercial and political communications. This is a new form of consumer vulnerability on digital markets where speech cannot be separated from platform infrastructure. Human ads are an emerging category of stakeholders who turn engagement into currency in novel ways. Users are faced with a double transparency problem:
(i) human ads have incentives to hide commercial interests, and;
(ii) platforms have incentives to algorithmically amplify human ads engagement in opaque ways.
This reflects a general good faith and fair dealing problem: the social media economy is increasingly based on deceit. Without a cohesive fair advertising framework, vulnerable consumer citizens are literally left to their own devices in fending off misinformation and manipulation affecting democracy and market stability alike.
This postdoctoral project consists in conducting qualitative empirical research into the monetization business models and their governance by social media platforms. It focuses on clarifying questions such as:
- How do social media platforms communicate monetization opportunities to content creators? What are these opportunities? What off-platform monetization business models are out there?
- What are the platform rules relating to content monetization?
- How do content creators relate to the governance of content monetization by platforms?
- What methodologies are most suited to garner more insights into creator perceptions relating to monetization?
This postdoctoral position is part of the European Research Council Starting Grant HUMANads. The postdoctoral candidate will have an opportunity and be expected to further define the initial research objectives set out by the project, in collaboration with the supervision team. This position will be part of a broader project team featuring computer scientists and legal scholars, and it will be based in the RENFORCE research center and the Molengraaff Institute for private law .
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