Nordic ministers for culture: Children and young people must be safe online

13.11.23 | News
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Johan Alp
The influence of the tech giants on our democratic societies is a challenge in all the Nordic countries. Algorithms control the information that appears in our digital feeds, and the media landscape is changing rapidly. The Nordic ministers for culture are now intensifying their co-operation concerning children, young people, and civil society.

The Nordic ministers for culture met during Session week in Oslo. High on the agenda was the issue of the influence that digital platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok have on the democratic infrastructure of our societies and the day-to-day lives of Nordic citizens.

“It’s concerning when editorial texts are blocked alongside a lack of transparency about where the information comes from. At the same time, the revenue model is changing and advertising revenues end up with media outside the Nordic countries. We must protect our democracies and be active in our dialogue with representatives of the digital platforms,” says Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir, Iceland’s Minister of Culture and Business Affairs and chair of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Culture. 

Joint Nordic efforts

The power of the tech giants over the flow of information isn’t just a challenge in the Nordic countries, but discussions must take place at several levels - nationally, regionally, within the EU, and globally.  Since not everyone can do everything, the ministers are keen to prioritise a number of issues which are most relevant for co-operation at the Nordic level. 
The ministers are co-financing “Nordic working group – safer digital democracy for children and young people”, which is in line with the recommendations of the Nordic think-tank for tech and democracy. The two-year initiative should result in more knowledge about the effects of social media on children and young people, as well as propose political initiatives.

At the ministerial meeting, it was decided to continue working to strengthen the role of civil society in a democratic debate culture online and to arrange a roundtable discussion with representatives from the tech giants and the Nordic ministers in order to continue dialogue on the challenges and opportunities that the countries have before them.

Nordic exchange of experience is crucial

Digitalisation is advancing incredibly rapidly on a global scale, so ongoing dialogue and exchange of experiences at multiple levels within Nordic co-operation is crucial in order to manage new challenges effectively.

“What we’re discussing today will be old news by tomorrow, so we ministers need to be well-prepared and share our experiences and knowledge with each other. The advancement of artificial intelligence is just one example that’s creating new opportunities and challenges, not least when it comes to copyright,” says Lubna Jaffery, Norway’s Minister of Culture and Equality. 
The Secretary General of the Nordic Council of Ministers, Karen Ellemann, pointed out that the Nordic countries can take the lead on key democratic issues:

“It’s essential that we protect our democracies in the Nordic Region. Nordic co-operation is important because we’re small countries with small language areas, but together we have a stronger voice both in the Nordic Region and globally.”

Think-tank’s recommendations show the way

The issue of the tech giants’ impact has been an important Nordic issue for a long time, and in 2021 the ministers for culture appointed a Nordic think-tank with experts from the Nordic countries to identify current challenges where pan-Nordic efforts could be effective.

The think-tank’s recommendations, which were presented in May, served as a basis for discussion at the ministerial meeting.

The recommendations include targeted efforts to promote digital literacy, increase safety for children and young people online, moderate content, and address disinformation created by artificial intelligence.

The ministerial meeting took place in Oslo during the 75th Session of the Nordic Council, where the ministers for culture were also present during the awards ceremony of the Nordic Council’s five prizes.

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