Big Tech and democracy

The Internet has become a central arena for public debate, distribution of quality news content and access to culture. At the same time, tech companies and social media platforms have a huge impact on the democratic discourse in Norway.

Services on the Internet make our lives easier and the access to information better. The Internet is an important infrastructure for different expressions and debate, distribution of quality news content from editor-controlled media, as well as access to movies, music, literature, and TV. At the same time, the tech companies behind these services have become dominant players in the field and have gained considerable economic power. The result is that platforms like Meta, Google, TikTok and Apple have significant influence on the democratic debate in Norway, on the way we attain information and how we communicate with each other.

Editor-controlled media can work as an antidote to mis- and disinformation and is necessary for a well-functioning democracy. It is therefore highly problematic when the platforms block, mute or moderate editorial content from editor-controlled media in Norway. These practices can challenge both freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Therefore, the Minister of Culture and Equality have invited representatives of Norwegian editor-controlled media and of the platform companies for two dialogue meetings – in March 2022 and June 2023. The goal of these meetings was to establish a better dialogue, and to explore how the parties can collaborate on regulation that at the same time secures freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Norway.

In addition, the Minister of Culture and Equality had separate meetings with the Nordic representatives of TikTok, Apple and Meta in December 2022. The Minister encouraged the companies to commit to the dialogue with the editor-controlled media, and to be more transparent.

There are also several initiatives in the EU to regulate the platforms, which the Government is considering to implement through the EEA Agreement. The goals of these regulations are more openness and transparency, to secure control over illegal content, to require that the platforms assess systemic risks to their services, as well as to secure a more contestable and fair digital market. Read more about the relevant regulations and proposed regulations here:

During the Norwegian presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers in 2022, the Minister of Culture and Equality hosted a conference in Oslo about the tech giants’ influence on the media sector and the democratic debate. At the conference, Nordic Information Centre for Media and Communication Research (NORDICOM) presented the report “Nordic News Media in Global Competition”, which was commissioned and funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

In Spring 2022, the Nordic Council of Ministers appointed a Nordic think thank for tech and democracy with a mandate to examine the tech giants’ influence on democracy in the Nordic countries. The think tank presented its recommendations in Spring 2023.