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1. A united tech-democratic region

Unifying as a tech-democratic region can help the Nordic countries pursue their common interests and pool their resources to strengthen digital democracy in light of the technological development and the rising influence of Big Tech. This unity will ensure that the Nordic countries remain at the forefront of responsible digital development and remain a democratic role model internationally.

Recommendation 1A – Establish a Nordic Centre for Tech and Democracy to support the enforcement of European tech regulation, share experiences and develop new policies

To effectively address some of the biggest concerns relating to the democratic influence of Big Tech, we need strong institutions to facilitate a coordinated Nordic effort. When the Nordics work together, we can have a stronger starting point for dialogue within the European Union.
Accordingly, an organisational entity for Nordic collaboration on tech and democracy can play an important foundational role as a driver and host for Nordic initiatives within tech and democracy, covering both future initiatives yet to emerge as well as some of the other recommendations presented in this report.
We recommend that the Nordic governments establish a Nordic Centre for Tech and Democracy within the framework of the Nordic Council of Ministers to act as a collective Nordic instrument for further initiatives to tackle challenges arising from the increasing influence of Big Tech. The Centre should address two main areas:
Firstly, the Nordic Centre for Tech and Democracy should organise and coordinate a stronger Nordic voice on ambitious tech regulation and support national enforcement. This need has grown in recent years as the tech sector has increased lobbying resources dramatically. To secure a more level playing field and counterbalance the discussions around digital democracy, the Centre should pool resources and expertise from the Nordic countries. Accordingly, the Centre should collect the most pressing challenges related to the functions of Big Tech identified by civil society and research communities and distribute these to relevant national and European authorities.
Secondly, the Centre should track Big Tech’s compliance with European regulation such as the Digital Services Act in the Nordic region, to support the relevant authorities’ enforcement of legislation. As a key part of the Digital Services Act, the largest tech platforms will be obligated to publish an annual risk assessment and commission an independent audit of the systemic risks of their platforms. These new obligations should increase transparency related to the negative impacts of their platforms on society, democracy and well-being, especially regarding children and youth. The Nordic Centre for Tech and Democracy should work to hold relevant tech companies responsible by examining and challenging these assessments, potentially in the role of a ‘trusted flagger’. To that end, the Centre should build a Nordic panel of experts who annually present their analysis and possible objections to these assessments. Further, they should engage with the European Commission, which enforces the transparency obligations of very large online platforms at the European level, as well as national authorities where relevant.
Importantly, the Centre should act independently from both the tech sector and Nordic political systems and be led by a board of relevant Nordic researchers, legal experts and NGOs within the field.