Digital Legal Lab

our research

Discover what we're working on at the Digital Legal Lab

My project (20)-modified

the power of JOINING FORCES

The Digital Legal Lab is a nation-wide collaboration funded through the Dutch Law Sector Plan (Sectorplan Rechtsgeleerdheid). It brings together four leading scientific institutions across the Netherlands specializing in law & technology, each with their own unique research strengths and expertise. Keep scrolling to find out more about the research at each of our collaboration’s participating partner institutions, and how we aim to bring the field of Digital Legal Studies forward by combining our strengths.

tilburg university

from regulating human behavior to regulating data

The research program of the Digital Legal Lab's spearheading partner institution, Tilburg University, analyses the shift from human-centric regulation to data-centric regulation from a variety of disciplines.

There's a shift in regulatory focus towards data, AI and robotics

The premise of our research program is that regulation has traditionally targeted human behaviour. Legislators and regulators have aimed to achieve policy objectives by influencing the way humans act and how their behaviour impacts others and society. In an era of big data, artificial intelligence and robotics, this classic starting point for regulation no longer holds up. The main focus of regulatory challenges is shifting from steering how humans behave to influencing how data behaves. 

It is becoming more important to understand how technologies and data operate by themselves...

…and how they affect individuals, businesses and society, rather than only focusing on how policy objectives can be achieved through influencing human behaviour. On top of this, in a data-driven society, decisions in many areas of our lives are not only based on data but also increasingly automatically enforced through systems built on data that can self-adapt based on previous interactions. This raises questions about how checks and balances can be put in place for governing the way rules and norms are set by these systems.

With our research program, we aim at bringing together different disciplines and inform academic, policy and societal debates about what we want our data-driven society to look like.

We do this in three work streams, each of which have their own overarching research question and sub-questions


➮ How does data-driven decision-making affect the legal system and what legal and social challenges are arising as people interact with data and AI systems within the legal system?

➮ Which rules are appropriate to regulate digital competitive advantage in a data-driven platform economy?


➮ Which concepts are suitable to capture privacy protection in regulation, to adequately protect trust and identity in the context of data-driven technologies?

➮ How can a common understanding of the concept of consent in data protection and in contract law, guide the legitimate processing of personal data and the entering into a contract?


➮ What is the role of human autonomy in an era of machine autonomy and data-driven decision-making?

➮ How can economic regulation strengthen the autonomy of individuals and businesses vis-à-vis digital giants in a data-driven society?

flagship projects

radboud university

Radboud University focuses on Digital Dispute Resolution

In the context of our research collaboration, Radboud University specializes in Digital Conflict Resolution. This new field of legal studies uncovers new ways to manage and resolve legal disputes. Furthermore, it investigates the new types of conflict that emerge as a result of digitalization.

Digitalization creates new opportunities
to resolve conflicts

An old-fashioned courthouse, counsel wearing robes, judges sitting on the bench and having paper files in front of them—this is the traditional image of how lawyers resolve disputes. Technology, however, is quickly dismantling the stereotype: court procedures are increasingly digital, and a range of online dispute resolution procedures is rapidly emerging. Conflict resolution is affected, transformed, and sometimes disrupted by technology. The researchers of Radboud University explore these crucial changes.

Courts are increasingly digital

The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the digitalization of courts. Online hearings via video-conference have become the norm in multiple legal systems around the world. This trend is likely to continue in the future, as new technological tools make their way into everyday life of lawyers, judges, and citizens. How does this shift affect the administration of justice? How can we ensure that courts deliver justice in the digital age? And how can we ensure that the legal professions are ready to address these challenges? Through their work, the researchers of Radboud University want to answer these questions.

…and outside of courts, digitalization is
transforming the way we handle disputes

Out-of-court dispute resolution is quickly becoming digital. Procedures such as arbitration and mediation, which are routinely used to resolve conflicts outside of court, increasingly rely on technology. In addition, with the rise of the platform economy, new paradigms of online dispute resolution emerge. E-commerce platforms handle an ever-growing volume of small claims, acting as de facto consumer courts of the internet. Similarly, social media platforms make delicate decisions on content moderation, balancing freedom of expression against other fundamental rights. How do these developments affect us, and our rights? How can we ensure that our rights are adequately protected in this new world of digital conflict resolution? The research conducted at Radboud University focuses on these key issues.

Technology changes the way we enforce the law

Digitalization creates new opportunities to evade rules and violate rights. The Internet, for example, is frequently used for the collection and exchange of personal data and copyrighted works. As a result, cyberspace may come across as a ‘grey area’, where violations of the law remain invisible and anonymous. These risks must be addressed. Weaker parties, such as consumers or retail investors, must be adequately protected in the digital realm. To this end, we must find effective ways to enforce the law in the digital age. The research conducted at Radboud University explores new ways to ensure adequate law enforcement.

…and it generates a new need for reliability
of digital data

Digital data play an important role in legal practice. However, data are not always reliable. They can be altered or forged (for instance, using deepfake technology). This unreliability complicates conflict resolution and law enforcement. How should digital evidence be evaluated by a judge or arbitrator? What are the legal requirements for the reliability of data that is used in a legally relevant way? The research conducted at Radboud University addresses these questions.

flagship projects

university of amsterdam

the University of amsterdam focuses on
the Digital Transformation of Decision-Making

At the University of Amsterdam, Digital Legal Lab researchers focus on the Digital Transformation of Decision-Making (DTDM). This refers to the way in which algorithms, data, and artificial intelligence (AI) affect markets and society, changing democratic processes, commercial value chains, public administration, and how public values are being realized – or challenged. We will focus on automated decision-making (ADM) systems, which are set to replace human decision makers in a range of areas, from justice, to media, commerce, health and labor. ADM shifts decision-making power and infrastructure to entities that produce, collect and aggregate data, build models and optimize algorithms. This creates new dependencies on (commercial) technology companies that harbor the unique expertise, innovation and control over data needed for ADM, and new challenges for the governance of decision-making.

From human to automated decision-making

The overarching research question for the DTDM research initiative is: What are the normative implications of the shift from human to automated decision-making, focusing particularly on the role of platforms and data as key actors and commodity in this process?

Questions the initiative seeks to address include...

➮ How can public values and fundamental freedoms be reinterpreted and formalized into algorithmic design?

➮ How is automation affecting the way public values and fundamental rights are conceptualized and safeguarded in practice?

➮ How is law furthering the concept and power of online platforms, shaping the future trajectory of platform ordering in our societies?

➮ How should law respond to ADM in the context of platform ordering in order to safeguard democratic values, the rule of law, and fundamental rights?

➮ How should law, and regulatory frameworks for online platforms in particular, deal with the emergence of platforms as private transnational regulatory agents?

➮ What mechanisms, rights and/or duties are suitable to ensure access to platform data for public interest objectives?

➮ What access to platform data is needed and appropriate to ensure platform accountability and regulatory oversight?

flagship projects

AI & Data Science for Law

The legal system is a complex adaptive system of hundreds of thousands of interrelated legal documents such as legal acts, decrees, legislative memoranda, and court decisions. Legal research traditionally relies on human analysis of this legal information. Humans, however, cannot manually analyse big legal data. This creates barriers to access to law and justice: the high complexity of the legal system makes it difficult to understand the rights it grants and the obligations it imposes upon people.

Modelling legal complexity

Like in physics and bioinformatics, modelling big legal data using computational techniques and quantitative methods can provide an innovative understanding of legal complexity. For example by revealing new insights regarding what predicts the duration of legal procedures, the costs of cases, or what are landmark cases and how the importance of landmark cases increases or decreases over time. These models could, for example, be used to measure integration of European legal orders by quantitatively investigating how case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union is received in the case law of the various Member States. We construct descriptive and predictive models of the law with data science and artificial intelligence.

flagship projects

Open research data

The Maastricht Law and Tech Lab produces open research data that is available to others. Examples of datasets are:

»  Case Law Explorer. In the Case Law Explorer project, we are developing an API that allows fetching metadata, full-texts, and network statistics for Dutch and European case law. The extraction process is explained on the Maastricht Law & Tech Lab GitHub ETL page.

» BSARD. This repository contains the Belgian Statutory Article Retrieval Dataset (BSARD) (in French), as well as the code to reproduce the experimental results from the associated paper by Antoine Louis, Jerry Spanakis, and Gijs van Dijck. Statutory article retrieval is the task of automatically retrieving law articles relevant to a legal question. While recent advances in natural language processing have sparked considerable interest in many legal tasks, statutory article retrieval remains primarily untouched due to the scarcity of large-scale and high-quality annotated datasets. To address this bottleneck, we introduce BSARD, which consists of 1,100+ French native legal questions labeled by experienced jurists with relevant articles from a corpus of 22,600+ Belgian law articles. Detailed documentation on the dataset and how to reproduce the main experimental results can be found on the Maastricht Law & Tech Lab GitHub BSARD page.

Watch The Deepfake Society, a YouTube documentary by the Digital Legal Lab with Bart van der Sloot.

research project led by bart van der sloot commissioned by the WODC (Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security)


With the rise of deepfake technology, some of the very foundations of our democratic society are being threatened. Bart van der Sloot (Tilburg University) led a study on the legal challenges of a synthetic society, where trust and truth are undermined by the rapidly increasing prevalence of deepfakes. The study was commissioned by the WODC, a knowledge institute linked to the Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security.  

Research project Co-led by Inge Graef

The Digital Clearinghouse

The Digital Clearinghouse is a network of competition, data protection and consumer authorities across Europe and beyond. It aims to facilitate exchange of insights about how to achieve a more coherent protection of individuals in an era of big data and artificial intelligence. From 2019 to 2021, the network was coordinated by Tilburg University, the University of Namur and the European Policy Centre with the support of grants from the Open Society Foundations, the Omidyar Network and the King Baudouin Foundation.

Digital Legal Lab researcher Inge Graef co-chaired the Digital Clearinghouse on behalf of Tilburg University.

research project led by linnet taylor

Global Data Justice

Places and populations that were previously digitally invisible are now part of a ‘data revolution’ that is being hailed as a transformative tool for human and economic development. Yet this unprecedented expansion of the power to digitally monitor, sort, and intervene is not well connected to the idea of social justice, nor is there a clear concept of how broader access to the benefits of data technologies can be achieved without amplifying misrepresentation, discrimination, and power asymmetries.

We therefore need a new framework for data justice integrating data privacy, non-discrimination, and non-use of data technologies into the same framework as positive freedoms such as representation and access to data. The Global Data Justice project, funded by the European Research Council (ERC), examines the lived experience of data technologies in high- and low-income countries worldwide, seeking to understand people’s basic needs with regard to these technologies. The project also includes the perspectives of civil society organisations, technology companies, and policymakers.


Sharing of health data for health care, research & policy

Tjaša Petročnik is a PhD Candidate at Tilburg Law School and a member of the Digital Legal Lab since 2019. She is affiliated with the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) and at the Tilburg Law and Economics Center (TILEC). In her research project, Tjaša focuses on sharing of health data for health care, research, and policy from the perspective of market regulation and competition law and the ways in which they interact with health policy. The aim of this research is to contribute to broader discussions on the regulation of data and AI, digital platforms, and digital economy in important public domains. 

BOOK Co-edited by André Janssen and Pietro Ortolani

Lawyering in the digital age

In October 2019, Radboud University hosted the international conference Lawyering in the Digital Age, in collaboration with the University of Florida, King’s College London, IE University of Madrid and the Catholic University of Lyon. The 2-day conference brought together international researchers, lawyers and IT developers (including from the United States, the United Kingdom and China) with their Dutch counterparts to discuss the digital future of the legal professions. Researchers from several Sectorplan partners participated. The event formed the basis for an international book: The Cambridge Handbook of Lawyering in the Digital Age (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Book  co-edited by Pieter Wolters, André Janssen and Pietro Ortolani

Digitalization and Conflict Resolution

How is conflict resolution evolving in the Netherlands and in the rest of Europe, as a result of digitalization? To answer this question, Radboud University cooperates with colleagues from the other universities participating in the Sectorplan Digital Conflict Resolution, as well as other academics and legal practitioners. The result of this collaboration is the book Digitalisering en conflictoplossing (Kluwer, 2021), which covers a wide range of topics such as digital evidence, automated decision-making, digital signatures, platform dispute resolution and digital access to justice.

Book Co-edited by Pietro Ortolani


Technology reshapes economic relationships on a global scale. One of the most notable developments in this respect is the rise of crowdfunding, which increasingly allows a wide range of ventures to receive funding through Internet-based financing channels. This development creates new challenges for lawmakers: the law must ensure adequate protection for investors, while at the same time allowing entrepreneurs to access capital easily. How is this balance struck in Europe? And how can we manage and resolve disputes that arise out of crowdfunding investments? To answer these questions, a group of researchers from Radboud University has initiated a cooperation with an international team of academics (including researchers from other Digital Legal Studies partners) and practitioners. The result is the book The EU Crowdfunding Regulation (Oxford University Press, 2021).

book project

International Arbitration and Technology

International arbitration, a particularly successful mechanism for the resolution of cross-border disputes, is currently undergoing a period of profound change. The procedures and practices of arbitration, backed up by the 1958 New York Convention, are being modernized (and potentially disrupted) by digitalization. From the conclusion of a digital agreement to arbitrate to the use of technology for the administration of the arbitral procedure, from the digital taking of evidence to the issuance and enforcement of a digital award, all facets of arbitration are affected by technology, and this trend is likely to accelerate in the near future. The researchers of Radboud University have invited an international group of academics and practitioners to reflect on these momentous changes. The project will result in an international edited book, International Arbitration and Technology (Kluwer, 2022).

research project

Private Law, Cybersecurity and Privacy

Cybersecurity and privacy have become increasingly important in our digitalized society. They can only be ensured if everyone, including private business, takes responsibility. A mistake by a single company can have serious repercussions for many others. For example, the ‘Kaseya VSA ransomware attack’ was caused by a flaw in the software that was used by the IT service providers of the affected businesses.

This project examines the various cybersecurity and privacy obligations of private actors and the legal repercussions of a violation of these duties. It involves various more specific topics, including the right to compensation for a breach of data protection law, the role of cyber insurance, the protection of personal data during insolvency and the private law duties to prevent online fraud.

PhD research project Belle Beems

Online Platforms and the Enforcement of the Law

Virtually everyone uses online platforms, such as social networks and search engines. In order to use these services, we transfer our personal data to tech companies. Consequently, our information is ‘monetized’ and becomes a competitive advantage for platforms on personal data markets.

In this landscape, different fields of law apply simultaneously. Considering the power of very large platforms on the market, competition law plays a crucial role. However, given the importance of personal data for digital transactions, data protection law is applicable as well. Additionally, online consumers are protected by consumer law. As a result, the boundaries between legal branches are becoming blurred, and the competences of several enforcement agencies overlap. How can the law facilitate cooperation and coordination between these different authorities? With her doctoral project, Belle Beems analyzes and assesses the issue of coherent law enforcement on digital markets.

PhD research project  Tom Vennmanns

Access to Justice in the Digital Age

It is a common wisdom that being in the right and being proved to be in the right are two different things. Whenever our rights are violated, the legal system should provide adequate protection. Yet, in practice, many segments of society struggle to access justice, and obtain the legal remedies they are entitled to. Court proceedings are generally perceived as costly, time-consuming, emotionally stressful and inaccessible for laymen. These obstacles are particularly evident when the value in dispute is relatively small, and the injured party has limited financial resources. In practice, people often end up accepting an unjust situation, instead of taking legal action and seeking justice.

Can technology change this state of affairs? Does digitalization change the way in which we access justice? Can technology open the doors of justice for those who need it, or does it risk generating new forms of exclusion? In his doctoral project, Tom Vennmanns addresses these questions, investigating whether digitalization can help resolve the access to justice problem.

phd research project Yong Yong Hu

Reliability and Security of Digital Authentication and Authenticity

In the past ten years, technology has advanced rapidly, facilitating a wide range of interactions. More and more people exchange information and conclude contracts online. In this context, delicate questions arises: who is behind the screen? How can we verify a person’s identity, so as to avoid identity fraud and other cybersecurity risks? And how can we ensure that the electronic documents we use have not been tampered with?

In her doctoral research, Yong Yong Hu investigates the legal requirements for the reliability of digital authentication and authenticity, and how this contributes to the European Digital Single Market strategy.

PhD Research project Ismet Öncü

Shareholder Engagement in the Digital Age

Many of us have been members of an association at one time or another—think of a student association, a hockey club, or a political party. As a member, you have the right to attend the annual general meeting. The same holds true for shareholders in a company: at the general meeting, the shareholders discuss the past fiscal year with the company directors and supervisors. After this discussion, a vote takes place on a number of agenda items. Traditionally, this meeting takes place in physical form. However, the COVID-19 crisis has raised questions regarding the possibility (and the need) to digitize the annual general meeting.

Digitalization – currently – is still in its infancy in Dutch corporate law. The legal framework for the digital participation of shareholders leaves many questions unanswered. What happens to the vote, if some shareholders are disconnected? Will the vote still be valid? Should shareholders always have the right to speak online during the general meeting, or is this too laborious if the group is large? In his doctoral research, Ismet Öncü addresses these questions, investigating shareholder engagement in the digital age.

research network  with joris van hoboken & Joran van Apeldoorn as part of the network 

Living Lab Quantum and Society (Quantum Delta Netherlands network)

The Living Lab Quantum and Society is a network where businesses, governments, societal organisations, scientists and citizens come together. There can be immense societal benefits as quantum technologies potentially alter our daily lives, in areas such as medicine, energy and finance. However, these disruptive technologies also pose significant societal risks related to security and privacy. The Living Lab Quantum Society approaches research and innovation by placing the societal impact and benefits as a starting point. The Lab aims to develop ethical, legal and societal standards and guide the development of quantum technologies and their applications to the benefit of society.

Prof. Joris van Hoboken and Dr. Joran van Apeldoorn are part of the Lab, focusing on the legal and ethical areas of quantum technologies.

study  led by joris van hoboken, with Digital Legal Lab members Naomi Appelman, Anna van Duin, Ronan Fahy & Natali Helberger on the research team

Legal routes for the speedy removal of unlawful online content

The study was conducted in the context of the Dutch Minister for Legal Protection’s agenda in order to improve the position of victims of unlawful online content. The report provides insight into the legal and practical feasibility of a provision for the removal of unlawful online content that affects people personally. The purpose of the research is to enable people to remove unlawful online content as quickly as possible. It focuses on unlawful content that affects people, and thus falls under the right to private life (Article 8, ECHR).

The report highlights that on one hand, there are routes that are relatively fast, accessible and scalable, such as notice and takedown directly via reporting directly to an internet service. On the other hand, procedures that offer optimal guarantees of the rule of law, such as a trial before civil court, is more complex. However, a combination of all of these is not possible. For example, the unlawfulness of a certain statement is not easy to determine in all cases, and freedom of expression must be protected, so content cannot simply be removed. However, according to the report, it is possible to remove or weaken bottlenecks by modifying and improving existing facilities.

As such, one promising solution is directed towards the further standardisation of complaints procedures for internet services themselves. In addition, experiments can be done by providing more accessible civil proceedings for very urgent cases in which the judge can give a decision quickly. The provision of information to disadvantaged parties can also be improved, in which the government can play an active role.

The study was led by Joris van Hoboken. Researchers involved are Naomi Appelman, Anna van Duin, Tom Blom, Brahim Zarouali, Ronan Fahy, Michelle Seel, Elisabetta Stringhi and Natali Helberger. 

Study  Led by Joris van Hoboken, with Digital Legal Lab members Naomi Appelman, Ronan Fahy, Paddy Leerssen & Natali Helberger on the research team

Legal framework on the dissemination of disinformation

The study, commissioned by the Dutch government, focuses on the legal framework governing the dissemination of disinformation, in particular through Internet services. The study provides an extensive overview of relevant European and Dutch legal norms relating to the spread of online disinformation, and recommendations are given on how to improve this framework. Additionally, the study includes an analysis of the relevant legal framework in 6 different countries (U.K., U.S., France, Germany, Sweden and Canada).  

The report makes clear how the freedom of expression runs as a central theme through the legal framework, both forming the outer limit for possible regulation and a legal basis to create new regulation (e.g. protecting pluralism). The legal framework governing disinformation online is shown to be very broad, encompassing different levels of regulation, shifting depending on the context and already regulating many different types of disinformation. Further, oversight seems to be fragmented with many different supervisory authorities involved but limited cooperation. Based on this analysis, the report offers several recommendations, such as on the use of disinformation not as a legal term but a policy term, on negotiating the tensions on the different policy levels, on the regulation of internet intermediaries including transparency obligations and on increased cooperation between the relevant supervisory authorities.

Previously, the interim report focusing on political advertising was published in late 2019. Both these studies have been carried out in the context of this DTDM research initiative. The study was led by Joris van Hoboken. Researchers involved are Naomi Appelman, Ronan Fahy, Paddy Leerssen, Tarlach McGonagle, Nico van Eijk and Natali Helberger. 

Hub of expertise  co-run by digital legal lab members
Joris van Hoboken
, Ilaria Buri, Ronan Fahy & Natali Helberger

The dsa observatory

The Digital Services Act (DSA) Observatory is a project run by the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam, and is part of the Digital Transformations of Decision-Making research initiative of the Amsterdam Law School. The DSA Observatory acts as a hub of expertise with respect to the Digital Services Act package presented by the European Commission in December 2020. The DSA Observatory aims to provide independent scientific input during the DSA debate and to engage different stakeholders on the DSA proposals, in particular on the challenge of confronting platform power from a fundamental rights and democratic values perspective. To achieve these goals, the Observatory will bring together a broad network of platform regulation experts in academia and other relevant stakeholders, including civil society organisations, policymakers and regulators.

The core project team for the DSA Observatory is composed of prof. Joris van Hoboken, Ilaria Buri, dr. Ronan Fahy, prof. Natali Helberger, prof. Martin Senftleben, and dr.  dr. João Pedro Quintais. The DSA Observatory is part of the “Digital Transformations of Decision-Making” research initiative of the Amsterdam Law School and contributes to the activities of the Digital Legal Lab.

The role of digital technologies in the COVID-19 exit strategy: Assessing legal, ethical and societal conditions

The research project focuses on the role of digital technologies in a COVID-19 exit strategy with a particular focus on the legal, ethical and societal conditions. Digital technologies are an important part of strategies to manage the pandemic and the exit strategy. Examples range from automated data mining, digital self-reporting to apps for contact tracing. The recent discussion on contact tracing apps in particular has also raised an important question, namely how can we steer clear of technological solutionism and implement new technologies in a way that is effective and at the same time respects fundamental rights and the need for democratic control? This is the question that this research project addresses. It concentrates on the question of which legal, ethical, and societal conditions need to be fulfilled for the use of digital solutions in managing the exit period in the corona crisis. The research starts with mapping the possible technological solutions and expectations and concerns associated with the use of digital technology and is followed by an in-depth analysis on legal and societal conditions of implementation. Moreover, a longitudinal survey is used to monitor people’s perceptions, expectations of, and experiences with apps and other digital technologies, in managing the crisis.

The project was commissioned by ZonMW as a so-called “urgent research question” project, and is a combined research effort of researchers from the Digital Transformation Initiative at the Faculty of Law, and the Research Priority Area ICDS (Information, Communication & The Data Society) at the University of Amsterdam.

It is led by Prof. Natali HelbergerProf. Claes de VreeseProf. Joris van Hoboken and Prof. Mireille van Eechoud and assisted by an interdisciplinary research team from the Institute of Information Law (IViR), the Amsterdam Law School and the Amsterdam School of Communication (ASCoR). The project also involves a core group of experts from the various fields of SSH, medicine and technology and research institutions across the Netherlands. The research is designed towards maximum transparency and a wide dissemination of the research findings. Next to informing policy making today, the research will draw lessons from the COVID-19 crisis for the future role of digital technology in solving societal problems.

research project  led by Mireille van Eechoud

Data after death — Research into
post-mortem digital assets

The Data after Death (Digitale Nalatenschappen) project researches the legal aspects of digital inheritances. Virtually every surviving relative will be confronted with issues relating to access to and management of online ‘assets’ after death. The use of social media and other online communication services by citizens is commonplace. The use of the internet, social media and other platforms is also rapidly normalising among older citizens. The intelligent lock-down associated with the COVID-19 virus and the transition to the 1.5-metre society will undoubtedly accelerate this trend towards the intensification of our online lives. In addition to intellectual property, privacy, data protection, other legal aspects are implicated, such as the contractual terms and conditions applied by providers of information and communication services, and inheritance law issues.

The study, started in July 2020, is commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, will result in recommendations on possible adjustments to the Dutch regulatory framework with a view to the adequate protection of private and public interests in the regulation and management of postmortem digital assets. The final report was published in April 2021. 

The project is a joint collaboration between the Institute for Information Law (IViR) and the Private Law department of the Faculty of Law at the University of Amsterdam. The team consists of experts across different legal disciplines: Prof. Barbara Reinhartz (Inheritance Law), Prof. Chantal Mak (Property Law and Fundamental Rights), Prof. Marco Loos (Consumer Law and Contract Law), Dr. Jef Ausloos (Data Protection), and Prof. Mireille van Eechoud (Information Law, research lead).

research project  led by gijs van dijck


The LAWNOTATION project aims to develop an infrastructure that allows researchers to making legal data and annotation schemes (current and future) accessible for annotation and analysis purposes, to develop an annotation platform for analyzing the linguistic and legal characteristics of legal documents, and to build a user-friendly interface. A team of developers will work closely together with researchers on the improved access to legal materials. 

LAWNOTATION is an initiative of the Digital Legal Studies cluster in the Sectorplan Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) – Rechtsgeleerdheid and other Dutch universities that are collaboratively working on questions related to the digitalisation of law. The research is made possible by the Platform Digitale Infrastructuur SSH. The project is led by prof. Gijs van Dijck and involves researchers from Maastricht University, Groningen University, University of Amsterdam, Radboud University, and Tilburg / Utrecht University.

research project with Digital Legal Lab members Gijs van Dijck & Rohan Nanda on the research team

Drones (flying forward 2020)

Flying Forward 2020 (FF2020) is a three-year collaborative research project that will develop a new Urban Air Mobility (UAM) ecosystem aligned with the Digital Government Transformation (DGT) of European countries, which focuses on incorporating UAM within the geospatial data infrastructure of cities. Building and incorporating all related data from UAM infrastructures and operations within the digital infrastructure of cities will allow helping society to fly forward in a safe, secure and effective way. The Maastricht Law & Tech Lab is responsible for the work package that focuses on transforming legislative provisions into machine-interpretable code. Flying Forward 2020 is funded by the European Union H2020 Research and Innovation Programme under Grant Agreement No. 101006828.

The project team consists of Gijs van Dijck, Rohan Nanda, Daniel On, Shashank Chakravarthy, Kevin Jacobs, Rico Möckel. Other partners that are involved are Nalantis, Verses, Digie, Serendipity, IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele, Brainport Development, Tartu Science Park, EuroUSC, Zaragoza, High Tech Campus Eindhoven, and University of Oulu.

Research project & application development

Finding Landmark Cases with Network Analysis (Case Law Explorer)

Traditionally, court decisions are manually read and analyzed in legal education and legal research. However, network analysis based on court citations have shown the potential to answer questions such as: What are the landmark cases in a corpus of decisions?, Which clusters of decisions can be distinguished, and Do certain courts cite different decisions? This project aims at bridging the gap between available computer science techniques for law, and the non-technical legal community. It will provide legal researchers and law students a software platform that visualizes large sets of court decisions as a network, where nodes represent cases and edges represent citations. Users can navigate through the corpus, spot clusters of cases, and access the full case documentation of any selected case in the network. This project will provide legal researchers, students, and practitioners an accessible gateway to available technologies applicable to their studies, research or work. This project is funded by a Comenius Teaching Fellows 2019 grant and by a Surf Open Leermaterialen (Web of Law) 2020 grant.

The Case Law Explorer Project involved DLS researchers Gijs van Dijck, Kody Moodley, Marcel Schaper, Maxine Hanrieder, and Bogdan Covrig, along with Michel Dumontier, Shashank Chakravarthy, Turgay Saba, and Pedro V. Hernández Serrano.

Links to the application, documentation, manuals, and the code can be found here.

PhD research project  Vageesh Saxena

Finding ‘Big Fish’ Vendors on the Dark Web (VendorLink)

Illegal markets and their connections are difficult to uncover on the Darknet. Additionally, the anonymity on the Darknet allows vendors to stay undetected by using multiple vendor aliases or frequently migrating between different markets. VendorLink proposes a Transformer-based approach to identify relationships between illegal markets and their vendors. VendorLink examines writing patterns to link unique vendor accounts across the advertisements on seven public Darknet markets.

Vageesh Saxena is the lead researcher on the project.

phd research project Antoine Louis

Statutory Article Retrieval (BSARD)

Statutory article retrieval is the task of automatically retrieving statutory provisions relevant to a legal question. While recent advances in natural language processing have sparked considerable interest in many legal tasks, statutory article retrieval remains primarily untouched due to the scarcity of large-scale and high-quality annotated datasets. 

This project addresses this bottleneck by constructing the Belgian Statutory Article Retrieval  Dataset (BSARD), which consists of 100+ French native legal questions labeled by experienced legal experts with relevant articles from a corpus of 22,600+ Belgian statutory provisions. BSARD is used to develop several retrieval approaches. The aim is to test to what extent machines can identify relevant legal provisions given a certain legal question.

The project is carried out by Antoine Louis. 

Research project Jerry Spanakis

Chatbot for Survivors of Sexual Harassment

Inspired by the recent social movement of #MeToo, this project aims to develop a chatbot to assist survivors of sexual harassment cases. The motivation behind this work is twofold: properly assist survivors of such events by directing them to appropriate institutions that can offer them help and increase the incident documentation so as to gather more data about harassment cases which are currently under reported. This project breaks down the problem into three data science/machine learning components: harassment type identification (treated as a classification problem), spatio-temporal information extraction (treated as Named Entity Recognition problem) and dialogue with the users (treated as a slot-filling based chatbot). The results indicate a success rate of more than 98% for the identification of a harassment-or-not case and around 80% for the specific type harassment identification. Locations and dates are identified with more than 90% accuracy and time occurrences prove more challenging with almost 80%. The initial validation of the chatbot shows great potential for the further development and deployment of such a beneficial for the whole society tool.

The project was carried out by Jerry Spanakis and others.