B Explanatory memorandum
by Ms Fiona O’Loughlin, rapporteur
1. The internet and digital platforms
have become the most widely used means not only of accessing and disseminating
information, but also of communicating in a broader sense. The digital
environment, with its wide variety of information sources and constant
stream of news, may be used for research or for keeping up with professional
and personal contacts. The benefits, in terms of accessibility and
instantaneous availability, are undeniable.
2. For younger generations, social media are their preferred
means of communication and creative expression and their go-to source
for information, games and entertainment in general. They are also
a tool for young people who increasingly want to have their say
in today’s crucial issues and global challenges such as human rights,
environmental protection, sustainable development and peace. Clearly,
the development of digital networks has opened up a wealth of creative,
educational, inclusive, diverse and revolutionary opportunities
for youth empowerment.
3. Technological change does not only bring advantages, however.
It also throws up risks and challenges such as information disorder
and regulatory gaps in digital spaces: mis- and disinformation,
manipulation, incitement to violence, online harassment, isolation
in “filter bubbles” and belief in conspiracy theories. These all
leave adults at risk – and young people even more so. We need to
be aware of these dangers and develop strategies to counter them
while upholding young people’s fundamental rights.
4. As many young people have not been taught media literacy and
do not have good news consumption habits, they are unable to manage
their information intake by selecting reliable news sources. The
way social media are driven by algorithms helps to spread divisive,
polarising and sensationalist content that is potentially dangerous
for young people.
5. The safety issues related to illegal content, including cybercrime,
pornography, cyberbullying and violence, are wide-ranging. In addition,
there is a real risk that some content may have harmful effects
on the self-perception, body image and health practices of children
and young people.
We must protect the young from these risks by enabling them
to use social media in a safe, healthy and creative way. As noted
in the motion for a resolution underlying this report,Note
new approaches need to be found to
make young people’s voices more audible in traditional media too,
to converse with them so as to enhance their ability to contribute
to the social fabric, to better protect those who may be more exposed
and vulnerable to harmful content online and to empower the many
who are seeking to build a better future.
7. There is a wide range of patterns as regards young people’s
interaction with mainstream and non-mainstream news media. Using
a qualitative approach lets us focus on two aspects: young people’s
safe social media use and their social engagement through the media.
8. Key issues of practical interest to the various stakeholders
include identifying what young people value in the news, their underlying
needs and motives for consuming and engaging with news media, their relationship
with mainstream news programming, their overall trust in professional
media reporting and the perceived value of quality journalism in
the current mis- and disinformation crisis.
9. In terms of communicating online, watching videos and keeping
up with the news, a fast pace has become the norm, with all the
attendant safety, digital privacy and reputational issues. Revelations
that Facebook repeatedly made misleading statements about the size
of its audience should be a wake-up call to us as legislators responsible
for upholding people’s rights, whether online or offline. In the
light of such threats to young people’s digital self-determination,
education about data protection and online safety must be stepped up.
Teaching digital citizenship includes equipping young people with
the skills to understand and protect their data privacy and safety
when interacting with artificial intelligence, developing education
and awareness about the short- and long-term consequences of the
digital footprint or “shadow” left by their online activities and ensuring
young people are better informed about the commercial data practices
used by social media platform providers.
10. Influencers act as intermediaries between young people and
their complex environment, but in the absence of proper regulation
they also pose threats in terms of misinformation, misleading advertising
and harmful content including pornography, the sexualisation of
minors and gender stereotypes, in particular.
11. Media ethics should be an integral part of interdisciplinary
programmes combining formal and informal learning, educational programmes
and awareness-raising campaigns run by both traditional and digital
media. Young people need to be taught about editorial independence,
the role of public service broadcasting and journalistic codes of
ethics so as to counter the spread of harmful content and fake news.
12. A media environment combining traditional and new media offers
young people many perspectives, experiences and opportunities to
engage individually in society or their community. The various forms
of social participation via the media should be explored, taking
into account the barriers faced by some categories of young people,
especially young women and people from minority groups.
13. Social engagement can also include political involvement and
participation via the media. Digital technologies afford a means
to participate in democratic activities and promote democratic citizenship,
but that, in turn, requires certain rules of civility to be observed
in online discourse and adaptation on the part of policy makers.
This is an issue of crucial importance for the elected representatives
of the member States and for the functioning of our democracies
in the future.
14. Lastly, young people are involved in a variety of paid and
unpaid economic transactions on the internet, including “aspirational
labour” through creative expression on social media. These forms
of free labour generate power asymmetries in the digital economy
that lead to structural inequalities. Combating this kind of labour
exploitation is vital.
15. This report has two aims: firstly, to assess the current challenges
and opportunities associated with the access, exposure and engagement
of young audiences with a wide variety of mainstream and non-mainstream digital
news sources; and secondly, to present member States with specific
conclusions and recommendations in this respect.
My analysis draws on the report by Ms Adriana Mutu, lecturer
and academic director at ESIC Business and Marketing School in Barcelona,Note
whom I would like to thank for
her excellent work. I have also taken into account the contributions
of other experts who participated in the committee hearing on 9
May 2022: Mr Pasquale Stanzione, president of the Italian Data Protection
Authority (Garante per la protezione dei dati personali), Italy;
Ms Mariek Vanden Abeele, lecturer in Digital Culture at the Department
of Communication Sciences of Ghent University, Belgium; and Mr Vittorio
Gattari, board member of the Italian Youth Council, member of the
Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe.
17. In the report, the terms “youth” and “young people” are used
to refer to all minors (namely, in general, persons under the age
of 18 in the European Union). The report also addresses the patterns
of both digital and mainstream media consumption, participation
and engagement of the following age groups: Generation Z (digital
natives aged 18-24) and Generation Y/millennials (aged 25-35).
2 Young people’s safe social media use
people’s news media usage and consumption habits on social media
Ever-changing news ecosystems
and unprecedented access and exposure to a wide variety of mainstream
(legacy media) and non-mainstream digital news sources (particularly
social media platforms and news aggregators) call for increased
awareness and scrutiny of young people’s news media usage and consumption
habits and behaviours. Such habits and practices follow certain
patterns, of which age is one of the most predictive factors.Note
Geographical location is another predictive factor, since
young Europeans’ browsing and news media consumption habits vary
from country to country. There is, however, a growing general trend:
online social media platforms and networks are their primary news
sources. Young audiences mix news consumption with social networking,
problem solving, social action and entertainment. It is not young
people who try to find news, the news comes to them via social networks.
Young adults often read news recommended by their peers on social
networks, as well as via group texts and instant messaging.NoteNote
In the digital environment, young
people do not follow the news: it follows them.
The fact that social media is becoming the primary gateway
to news and information reflects a shifting dynamic between traditional
news outlets, which are directly connected to their audiences, and
social media platforms, where young adults are more likely to come
across news incidentally
as they do not actively seek it out themselves. In addition, young
people with low levels of trust in the media tend to prefer non-traditional news
sources such as social media and blogs.Note
21. Understanding this phenomenon and above all, taking it into
account, could help media organisations and journalists make their
products and formats more appealing to young audiences so as to
engage them, restore overall trust in professional media reporting
and build brand loyalty.
There are four key news moments which depend on external variables
such as personal habits, work lives and the medium in question:
a moment “dedicated” to news consumption, a moment to get “updated”
and catch up with the latest news, a moment when checking the news
is a “time-filler”, and a moment when attention is “intercepted”
by news. In addition, four types of news consumers have been identified:
“Heritage News Consumers”, “Dedicated News Devotees”, “Passive News
Absorbers”, and “Proactive News Lovers”.Note
23. The habits and behaviours of these different types of news
consumers are influenced by the extent to which news brands form
the epicentre of the individual’s news experience (self-led to brand-led)
and the level of engagement an individual has with news items in
general (low consumption to high consumption). Self-led consumers
consult what they deem relevant, whereas brand-led consumers see
news brands as the gatekeepers of news.
Young people’s news consumption habits are also influenced
by a number of key elements such as the news agenda, content, format
and tone, as well as differences between platforms, between traditional
media, between age groups and between different payment methods.
The young often feel that consuming news is “a chore”,Note
in turn feeds into the perception that traditional news content
is not attractive or appealing enough.
With regard to social networking sites, the difference between
incidental news exposure and deliberate news consumption is an interesting
point to consider. Incidental news consumption in the online media environment
means that young people may be exposed to information or news they
did not actively seek out. They literally stumble upon news without
having deliberately set out to find it. “Encountering” news in this
way can be regarded as a by-product of other activities, something
occurring within the habitual use of a certain medium, channel or
to this phenomenon as a “checking cycle”, in which one constantly
checks one’s phone to stay on top of what is occurring both in one’s
personal life and in the world at large, and as “news snacking”,
which describes the consumption of brief news pieces and a lean-back
way of news processing.
Young people’s incidental or deliberate news consumption on
social media was measured in relation to how news is viewed on their
social media networks feeds and the role played by friends and followers.
There has been a decrease in the use of legacy news media on traditional
platforms, whereas social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram
and Twitter are an increasingly significant source for news. This
means that while social networking sites are not a primary source
themselves, they are an important distributor of current affairs from
legacy media companies and other conventional sources.Note
27. Our challenge, and that of the media, is to ensure that digital-born
news sources, non-mainstream news platforms and traditional media
outlets are providing young audiences with high-quality news reporting
and encouraging them to engage with news media actively and deliberately.
Indeed, despite increasing rates of news consumption on social media
and declining audience ratings for traditional media, the latter
are still perceived by young people as reputable and reliable sources
delivering quality journalism. As might be expected, very low trust
in the news media is associated with a preference for non-mainstream
news sources, while audiences with very high trust in the media
organisations are most likely to consume news from traditional sources.
The role of journalists as information providers and as professional
gatekeepers has changed over time. The fact that professional journalists
are not always perceived as relevant news sources is concerning.
Young people are less attached to specific media channels and pay
little attention to professional journalists. However, there are
ways to raise the profile of independent, community and local media
projects by providing public funding to reduce reliance on advertising.Note
29. The media should bring their news formats, products and delivery
up to date and find new ways of engaging and interacting with young
audiences, who are either deliberately looking for quality news
reporting and accountable journalism or incidentally coming across
news items that match their interests.
Incidental news consumption might also be addressed and countered
by working with the various stakeholders to develop media educational
and literacy programmes.Note
Young people need
to understand the media’s agenda-setting role and be encouraged
to actively participate and make individual and collective decisions
based on quality information so that they can democratically engage
in the public sphere.
Lastly, it is important to take into account the attitude
to news consumption of young people from minority backgrounds, for
example young migrants born outside their current country of residence,
who are deliberately turning to social networks because they want
to keep up with current affairs in general and with civic and political
Accordingly, news media
organisations should use social media networks and platforms with a
real potential for high audience engagement so as to promote international
current affairs and showcase their brand, especially among culturally
diverse younger audiences living outside their country of origin.
digital privacy and reputation: digital self-determination
In recent years, legal action
has been brought against social media platforms – including tech
giant TikTok – on several occasions for violating children’s privacy
and consumer rights.Note
whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations that it was Facebook
policy to mislead investors about the company’s safety approach
and audience sizes triggered a call for greater awareness and better
education about the data safety, protection and privacy measures
implemented in Europe by tech giants and other stakeholders at national
and international levels.
33. To raise awareness of such worrying issues and fight back,
it is crucial to ensure that young people are informed about the
importance of the privacy and safety issues around the personal
data they share online when using social networking and online shopping
platforms, mobile applications, sensors and trackers. It is also
vital to continue research into digital self-determination.
34. Much of the public conversation around young people and digital
technologies has focused on weighing up the dangers and understanding
the damage that might be done by these technologies, while also recognising
that younger audiences’ use of digital media may have its benefits.
It is necessary to look beyond risk-oriented public policies and
towards the challenges and opportunities digital technologies present
for young people and their interests. This includes the conditions
in which young people have access to the internet, their level of
agency when using digital technologies and degree of experience
in that respect, their rights and responsibilities, the types of
activities they engage in and how they do so in creative, meaningful, ethical,
responsible and participatory ways.
In order to build such digital capabilitiesNote
and ensure “digital well-being”,Note
young people must be given access
to training and education to acquire the necessary skills for making
better use of digital technologies. Concepts such as digital citizenship,
digital literacy, digital determination and new media literacies
have been used to group and organise these skills into educational
programmes that may be implemented in formal, informal and connected
36. The fact that internet use leaves a digital footprint or “shadow”,
how to minimise this and manage digital identity are all issues
that need to be addressed by stakeholders, including public institutions
and educators. Young people should be taught about digital footprints
and their advantages and disadvantages, develop an understanding
of the issue of privacy loss on the internet and learn who is tracking
users online and in what way, and how privacy laws in various parts
of the world may affect their digital footprint. Consideration should be
given to introducing optional or compulsory digital citizenship
education to empower young people to understand privacy and safeguard
their own data while online and to improving education and awareness about
the short- and long-term consequences of digital footprints or “shadows”.
Young people should also be better informed about the commercial
data practices used by social network platform providers.
Today’s digital threats include the collection of personal
data and commercial data practices, online surveillance tools and
facial recognition technology used by social media platform providers.
It should be noted that the European Union has adopted a new regulation
– the Digital Services Act – that will come into force in 2023.Note
It bans certain types of targeted
advertising on online platforms when children are concerned or particular
categories of personal data are used, such as ethnic origin, political
opinions and sexual orientation. It would be a good idea to extend
this legislation to non-EU countries in Europe.
38. Further research is needed on the various aspects of digital
self-determination, from control over personal data to self-expression,
participation in civic life and the digital economy, relationship-building,
health and well-being, so as to initiate critical dialogue on how
to define and understand the problems and potential of digital self-determination.
It is important to ensure there is funding for research into online
risks, including cyberbullying, sexual harassment, impersonation,
exposure to pornography, violent or aggressive content, harmful
speech, content about drugs and racist content.
networks and exposure to toxic advertising
39. Platforms and social networks
facilitate access to news, providing means to engage in the news
process through commenting, sharing and posting online. Young people
are therefore exposed to advertising largely on the basis of the
interests and behaviour of those they connect with via these platforms
and social networks. In particular, young people are exposed to
a wide variety of discourses and practices promoted by social media influencers,
TikTokers, YouTubers and video bloggers who increasingly act as
“interpreters” or “guides” for younger people, by helping to distil
the complexity of daily news streams, pre-selecting topics and posting comments
that reflect their own personal opinions.
Social network influencers also hold great sway over young
people, however. They are often the primary peddlers of misinformation,
leaving young people exposed to harmful material and unsavoury advertising practices.
For example, harmful material may feature pornographic scenes, the
sexualisation of minors and gender stereotyping in advertising for
children’s toys, etc. In addition, TikTokers often do not clearly
indicate or disclose that they are advertising or promoting certain
41. Such practices call for more robust regulation and for the
protection of children and minors, including regulation of online
advertising, product placement, branded content and covert advertising.
Video sharing platforms that are liable to be accessed by children
should also ensure that they meet data protection requirements.
Some European countries have started to introduce legislation
on the role of online influencers. On 8 July 2022, Spain adopted
a general law on audiovisual communication that includes influencers
as audiovisual service providers.Note
In 2021, Norway passed regulations targeting
manipulated images, requiring social media influencers and advertisers
to attach a disclaimer label to retouched images. The legislation, which
has been in force since the summer of 2022, also applies to images
shared by influencers and other public figures who post edited photos
of themselves to advertise products or services. Lawmakers are therefore well
placed to tackle such abusive practices.
43. Media regulators also have a role to play in setting out specific
advertising measures for providers of video-sharing platforms. For
example, OFCOM, the UK media regulator, published a guide for video-sharing platform
providers in 2021 setting out specific advertising measures, including
a requirement to provide the functionality for anyone uploading
a video to declare whether or not it contains advertising.
44. Despite the existence of such best practices, member States
do not yet have a uniform approach to video-sharing platform providers
to ensure that they understand the wide-ranging requirements in
terms of data protection or harmful content that apply to online
advertising aimed at under-18s. There is an urgent need to act.
45. In the digital ecosystem, online
harassment, cyberbullying and cyberaggression come in various forms including
impersonation, hacking into others’ accounts, disseminating photos
or videos online, spreading defamatory material online and other
intentional behaviour via electronic devices that aims to inflict
harm on victims.
Cyberbullying aimed at young people (or among young people)
is a widespread phenomenon in all European countriesNote
and its effects on children’s mental
health have been well-documented in medical literature, with evidence
of higher rates of depression, self-harm and suicidal ideation among
victims. A study on the various kinds of toxic and hateful comments
and how they proliferate on videos by and for young people on YouTube
revealed that one in 20 comments is inappropriate and that an initial
hateful comment opens the door for others.Note
These findings are all the
more striking given that children are still drawn to YouTube and are
keen to make a career out of creating videos on this platform.
It is therefore necessary to address the problem of cyberbullying
in all its complexity and examine what possible new solutions and
approaches exist to help stakeholders reconceptualise, prevent and
mitigate this phenomenon more effectively. Initiatives should be
implemented alongside the existing provisions of the revised EU
Audiovisual Media Services Directive aimed at strengthening the
protection of minors and the general public against cyberbullying
victimisation, harmful content including sexism, incitement to racism
and other discriminatory content.Note
Measures have already been introduced in member States either
or in the
form of guidelines.Note
This approach should be scaled up,
either through the transposition of the revised EU Audiovisual Media
Services Directive or through specific regulations for non-EU member
States. The issue of how to deal with online comments is vital.
Big tech platforms responding rapidly to remove potentially harmful
comments is a crucial factor, whether their detection relies on
algorithms or user alerts.
Pornographic content is sadly a distinct part of cyberbullying
and pornography platforms and intermediary services play a major
role in the dissemination of non-consensual pornography.Note
50. Non-consensual material includes upskirting, spycam, hidden
cam, revenge porn and leaked or stolen images. They also include
fake porn and deepfakes, where digital face-swap technology is used
to map the faces of celebrities or private individuals on to explicit
sexual material, which is then circulated online. This is a rapidly
growing phenomenon in Europe.
Although major platforms have taken steps to tackle the issue,
non-consensual material remains easily accessible, free and even
organised by genre and category. The readily available and non-consensual pornography
legitimises and normalises such abuse. Regulation is therefore justified
in view of the frequency and impact of non-consensual images on
the networks, to the extent that almost a third of all women in
the EU fear that fake intimate images of themselves could be shared
online without their consent.Note
52. A path forward may again be found in EU legislation on digital
services, which includes new provisions to ensure that intermediary
service providers comply with the requirement to reduce the amount
of non-consensual pornography on their sites, notably through a
“trusted flagger” mechanism whereby entities (who have been awarded
that status in their member State on the basis of their expertise)
submit notices that are treated as a priority.
53. Beyond regulation, current and future stakeholders’ endeavours
to prevent and tackle online harassment depend in part on their
being aware of and having access to scholarly work on media ethics
for a public audience. This in turn requires that governments fund
research projects that aim to address cyberbullying and provide
practical guidance on preventing and responding to this phenomenon.
Research on cyberbullying should also take into account risk factors
for victimisation such as disability, ethnic group, gender and sexual orientation.
Lastly, health-care providers and educators dealing with children
and young adults play a key role in identifying online harassment.
However, the availability of training funding for such providers
is a matter for the member States and varies from country to country.
people’s social engagement through and with the help of the media
participation and engagement in a convergent media environment
54. The degree of trust in the
media greatly influences interest, engagement and participation.
Forms of online participatory behaviour, seen as a feature of civic
engagement in democratic societies, include accessing, producing,
sharing and commenting on news, voicing opinions on matters of public
concern, exchanging information, expressing emotions, taking part
in debates, educating others, fact-checking and providing balance
Online news participation behaviour varies from country to
country, depending as well on levels of trust in the news media
as opposed to in other non-traditional sources such as social media,
blogs and digital-born providers. Youth participatory and collaborative
culture is particularly influenced by the patterns of usage of such
non-traditional sources. Other variables also come into play, including
individual demographic characteristics, lifestyles, life cycles,
types of new formats, content, means of engagement, tone and storytelling.Note
56. Safe internet use is paramount to youth participation in and
engagement with news ecosystems. Young people create spaces of support,
sociability and recognition that are also spaces for collaborative
learning. This helps them to develop social, cultural, professional
and technical skills. The policy challenge therein is the crucial
question of who listens to young people’s voices when they are raised
in this way.
Credible information also depends on credible journalists.
In this respect, public service media play a crucial role in fostering
professional journalism. Public broadcasting media, after all, are
still perceived as more trustworthy than private media channels,
even by young people.Note
There are also correlations between
levels of education, exposure to television news and newspapers
and trust in the media. It is imperative therefore that member States
commit to ensuring adequate levels of public service media funding,
while providing safeguards for editorial independence in order to
restore young people’s trust in professional journalists.
ethics, youth, news and democratic engagement
58. Teens and young adults are
exposed to a wide variety of political discourses, which may influence
their civic and political engagement and participation – both online
and offline. Having the opportunity to explore and exchange ideas
with others provides a critical mechanism for young people to form
and hone their own opinions.
The term participatory media was coined by researchers to
define the uses of digital media that are more interactive, social
and collaborative than broadcast or print media – the so-called
traditional media – which are considered elitist. Digital media
have had an impact on youth civic development.Note
They have formed a landscape that
is conducive to participatory politics in which average citizens
do not just follow elite-driven information and wait for opportunities
for political action, but actively participate in defining issues
of public concern and creating pathways to civic action.
Democratic engagement, however, is dependent not only on age,
but also on gender, social background and ethnicity. A study of
young British women from low socio-economic status backgrounds found
that they did not feel represented or listened to in institutional
politics or the public sphere; they used a different type of technology
to access information and to communicate with their social networks
and were disengaged from institutional politics.Note
These findings suggest that
the current approaches of public-sector civic websites for young
people in general are ineffective in reaching these young women.
61. In the political sphere too, exposure to conflict and incivility
in online discourse is an area of concern that young people face
when participating in online debates. The more young people participate
in interest-driven online communities, the more they are exposed
to conflict and the more likely they are to receive a hostile comment,
which is not the case with friendship-driven communities (where
young people are more likely to have a personal, real-life relationship
with group members).
62. The civility or uncivility of online discourse may thereby
affect young people’s civic-mindedness and degree of political engagement.
If we want to engage young people in policy discussions, we need
to manage disagreements and avoid aggressive language in the media,
so as not to undermine trust in politics and institutions.
Although young people are not all politically disengaged,
they do feel distanced and alienated and are critical towards institutional
politics. To use the categories drawn up by researchers, there are
four factors on which young people’s voluntary participation and
contribution depend: technology, public representation, education,
media genres and language.Note
themselves have a role to play in overcoming young people’s sense
of indifference to politics; it is our responsibility to adapt the
political communication process by using innovations in technology,
communication and education. In Ukraine, the Ministry of Digital Transformation
has launched an educational course for young people called “Media
Literacy in Time of Pandemic”Note
involving various youth opinion makers
such as singers and bloggers. This is an example of an innovative
media literacy tool aimed at a young audience, which public service
media could be encouraged to follow.
64. Given young people’s alarming lack of interest in the news,
ensuring opportunities for democratic political engagement and exposure
to reliable political information on both traditional and new platforms
poses a major challenge, as noted in the motion for a resolution
underlying this report. News consumption via online news aggregators,
social media and blogs raises, inter
alia, questions as to who should monitor and tackle mis- and
disinformation in the information ecosystem and how. Journalists
should continue to act as professional gatekeepers in hybrid news
systems, provided that fact-checking initiatives are also funded
to combat misinformation and disinformation.
In response to the emergence of echo chambersNote
and the risks associated
with the rise of online mis- and disinformation, fact-checking initiatives
have sprung up, including at European level,Note
to counteract the impact of potentially
harmful information and to limit the spread and impact of disinformation.
66. In addition, creating safe online communities is a priority.
This approach may be implemented alongside existing provisions of
the revised EU Audiovisual Media Services Directive. As with harmful
advertising or pornographic content, big tech platforms should act
swiftly (including with the help of algorithms) to remove comments
that could be detrimental to the political debate.
aspirational labour and new power asymmetries in the digital economy
67. Advances in the new digital
media ecosystem have drastically changed content creation and general media
consumption habits and patterns. The main trend is the growing rate
of audiovisual media consumption on video-sharing platforms, social
media networks and instant messaging systems. Time spent online
also comprises carrying out a variety of paid and unpaid economic
transactions, often associated with content consumption and production.
This includes creative expression on social media, interactive gaming, collaboration,
video or written blogging, photography, music and podcasting, etc.
68. Young people are contributing to a changing economic landscape,
providing labour for free in the hope of a future payoff. This is
known as aspirational labour, or hope labour, which encourages young
people to take risks and provide unpaid or underpaid labour, with
no guarantee of future earnings. Aspirational labour in the digital
media workforce is all the more challenging as influencers promote
a narrative that the online environment offers endless possibilities
and that patience is all that is required until content reaps its
Young people are empowered by the digital ecosystem because
it provides them with the tools and spaces to be both active and
creative consumers and producers of culture. Corporate platforms,
however, commodify the young people’s data, attention, culture,
labour and creativity for profits that are not equitably shared.
New categories of consumption and production have emerged but their
role and interplay remain fuzzy, especially in terms of “prosumers”
The ecosystem of commercial and
non-commercial platforms that offer young people opportunities to
learn, socialise and play also expose them to risks including invasion
of privacy, exploitation of free labour and surveillance.
70. The advent of new digital careers such as “data workers” and
the like should thus trigger debate about the role played by young
people in the networked ecosystem of the digital economy. The digital
transformation may lead to structural inequalities and reproduce
existing ones, for example the imbalance in power relations between
platforms and users. It may also create a digital divide in the
form of unequal access to technologies, unequal development of the
relevant skills needed to flourish online and the disparate benefits
of technology usage according to socio-economic status. Young people
produce personal, transactional, and user-generated data that are
then commodified by corporations — by trading, monetising, and/
or converting data into financial capital — without compensating
young people for their product in an equitable way.
71. Council of Europe member States could and should develop strategies
to encourage and enable young people to participate creatively,
healthily and safely in active social life, notably through and
with the help of the media, and address the risk of the young being
exploited through aspirational labour. Regulatory frameworks should
be developed to correct these so-called new power asymmetries, namely
the unbalanced power relationships between young people and corporate
platforms with for-profit business models, which are so popular
with the young.
72. Such strategies could include educational programmes and frameworks
to increase youth awareness and knowledge of the digital economy
in which they as users produce data that are then traded and mined
by corporate platforms with for-profit business models.
73. At present, the member States have no uniform approach to
commercial data practices, data privacy, surveillance and targeted
advertising. The same is true for terms and conditions that amount
to unfair competition. Yet a uniform approach to young people’s
economic understanding of the digital environment (taking into account
age, ethnic origin, gender, education and time spent online) is
precisely what is required. The overall aim is to better understand
aspirational labour and, if young people are genuinely being exploited, to
tackle this new form of exploitation.
74. The lack of clear metrics to assess and measure the different
forms of value creation makes young people’s creative and affective
labour on digital platforms invisible and must therefore be addressed.
An analytical approach could be implemented in parallel with entrepreneurial
and regulatory initiatives to support young people involved in the
digital economy who are consuming and producing content.
75. My report provides an overview
of the key media challenges facing youth in Europe while bearing
in mind that the digital environment offers a wealth of information
and a potential for knowledge-sharing that is as yet unrivalled
in human history. This opportunity is not without risks for the
young, nor without responsibility for the public authorities and
economic operators in the field.
76. Many stakeholders have a role to play, starting with the media
themselves: their independence, professionalism and adaptation to
technological changes are prerequisites for quality information
and young people’s civic engagement.
77. The balance between freedom and regulation is also fundamental:
the Assembly must call for operators to ensure the protection of
young people’s data and privacy, as the European Union recently
did in its Digital Services Package adopted in 2022. The regulation
also covers illegal content, and, in particular, unlawful pornographic
material, which is a major problem for young people.
78. Lastly, we must ensure that young people’s creative potential
in the digital environment is not hindered or economically exploited.
79. The recommendations in the draft resolution seek to respect
such a balance between autonomy and responsibility. It is the duty
of States, regulators, educators, civil society and private platforms
to ensure that the young people of today are the informed and responsible
adults of the future.