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3. Access to diverse and credible digital platforms and communities

For an open and vibrant democratic debate online, we benefit from being able to access a diverse set of fora that allow us to meet others with similar interests and exchange opinions. However, much of the public debate unfolds, although in different communities, on the same online platforms. Accordingly, these platforms have massive power over our democratic debate but do not always live up to the responsibility of protecting the public debate. Nordic countries should strengthen transparency, accountability and social trust by promoting diversity in platforms and communities.

Recommendation 3A Support the volunteers who facilitate online communities where democratic debate unfolds

Public debate online takes place all over the internet – in the comments on media outlets and politicians’ social media accounts and not least in open digital communities on everything from being a new parent to the town you live in
Analyse & Tal (2022). Danmarks Digitale Medborgerhuse. Retrieved from Analyse & Tal: https://www.ogtal.dk/assets/files/Danmarks-Digitale-Medborgerhuse_compressed_2023-03-14-102118_vuig.pdf
. In these digital community halls, millions of Nordic citizens participate in the public debate, and the volunteers who organise, facilitate and moderate the conversations carry a large responsibility. Regardless of the primary subject of the community, a growing number of digital volunteers spend their time caring for the health of the digital community halls while also working to support open and trustworthy online debate.
We recommend that the Nordic countries develop and test strategies for supporting digital volunteers to complement the Nordic countries’ long-standing tradition of supporting an active civil society around our democratic conversation. Such initiatives may consist of micro-funding schemes funded by Big Tech for administrators of public groups of a certain size to cover operation expenses, training and innovation of the public debate within their group. They may also include the development of free training modules to promote inclusive and vibrant digital debates in online groups. Finally, Nordic countries may fund innovation projects that enhance public debate by building on shared Nordic democratic values.

Recommendation 3B Promote the innovation and implementation of technology that supports open digital public debate to create alternatives to large online platforms

Online platforms have become almost unavoidable for ordinary people in their everyday lives. However, with the challenges for democracy and public debate, including the blurring of lines between authentic and manipulated content, the use of time retention strategies and the manipulation of public opinion, alternatives for accessing public debate are pressing.
Since the online platforms of Big Tech have so many users and their business models are based upon the acquisition of smaller platforms on the rise, few alternatives to these platforms exist. Consequently, the promotion of technological as well as civic innovation and implementation of technology that enables open and trustworthy digital public debate may offer citizens real alternatives to large online platforms. Such technologies already exist around the world but need support in order to constitute realistic and trustworthy alternatives to the platforms of Big Tech.
Nordic countries ought to promote innovation and implement technology that support open digital public debate.
We recommend that Nordic countries support the use of open standards and protocols (such as ActivityPub) to encourage effective portability between competing platforms.
We recommend that the Nordic countries support funding for public and civic actors and regulations that increase diversity in available platforms in accordance with established state aid rules.
We recommend that the Nordic countries ensure that policies on business and industry promote the development of sustainable and open democratic technologies, both at a national and a European level.