Toward research access for platform data


  • Paddy Leerssen


  • Mathias Vermeulen
  • Bernhard Rieder
  • Rebekah K. Tromble
  • Krisztina Stump

Organisation: IViR

Room: Online 3

Timing: 16:00 - 17:15 on 29 January 2021

This panel explores the legal challenges of data access for public interest research into online platforms. Research access has become a key issue in platform governance debates, including not only self-regulatory initiatives such as Social Science One but also in recent ongoing reforms in the EU Digital Services Act. Platforms have commonly argued that privacy and data protection considerations pose legal and ethical barriers to research access, but these claims are now under scrutiny by ac-ademics and policymakers. Building on a recent report from the IViR, commissioned by AlgorithmWatch, this panel explores how the law in general, and data protection in particular, can help to empower the research community whilst protecting personal data.

• What access do researchers need to properly study platforms, and what legal and technical barriers do researchers face in procuring this data?
• How can platforms and governments revise their policies to facilitate independent research, and how should this be reconciled with the General Data Protection Regulation?
• What is the role of art. 40 GDPR in facilitating research access through Codes of Conduct?
• What is the role of the Digital Services Act in fostering independent research access?


Paddy Leerssen

University of Amsterdam (NL)

Paddy Leerssen is a PhD Candidate in information law at the University of Amsterdam, and a non-resident fellow at the Stanford University Center for Internet and Society. His research on media and communications law, and particularly on the legal construction of transparency in social media platforms under EU law. Paddy holds LL.M. degrees from the University of Amsterdam and Harvard Law School.


Mathias Vermeulen


Mathias Vermeulen is the co-founder and Public Policy Director at AWO, a new data rights agency, and an affiliated researcher at the Centre for Law, Science, Technology and Society at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.
Earlier he served for four years as a digital policy advisor to MEP Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament and as the main advisor to the UN special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism.
Mathias started his professional career at the Special Procedures Unit of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and at the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva. He holds a Ph.D. in European privacy and data protection law from the VUB.

Bernhard Rieder

University of Amsterdam (NL)

Bernhard Rieder is Associate Professor of New Media and Digital Culture at the University of Amsterdam and a collaborator with the Digital Methods Initiative. His research focuses on the history, theory, and politics of software and in particular on the role algorithms play in social processes and in the production of knowledge and culture. This includes work on the analysis, development, and application of computational research methods as well as investigation into the political and economic challenges posed by large online platforms.

Rebekah K. Tromble

George Washington University (US)

Dr. Rebekah Tromble is Director of the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics and Associate Professor in the School of Media & Public Affairs at George Washington University. Her research focuses on political communication, digital research methodology, and research ethics, with particular interests in political discourse on social media, as well as the impacts of exposure to online disinformation and abusive content. Dr. Tromble consults regularly for industry and policymakers, particularly on topics of digital platform accountability, responsible data access and use, and best practices for combating the effects of disinformation. She is also a member of the European Digital Media Observatory’s Advisory Board.

Krisztina Stump


Krisztina Stump is Head of the Media Convergence and Social Media Unit, in DG CNECT of the European Commission. The Media Convergence and Social Media Unit is in charge of social media policy as well as research and innovation funding to address the challenges brought by media convergence, fostering technological developments to allow for new types of media services and user experience. The Unit is also responsible for the Commission’s policy on combatting disinformation online. Krisztina Stump holds Master of Laws degrees, with a focus on Media Law from Columbia Law School (2010) and from Humboldt University (2003).