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PACE emphasizes importance of safe social media use for youth in promoting democratic engagement and protecting from harmful content

Yevheniia Kravchuk, (Ukraine, ALDE)

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has emphasised the importance of ensuring safe social media use for young people “to promote youth participation in social, economic and political life via the media”.

In a resolution based on the report by Fiona O’Loughlin (Ireland, ALDE), the Assembly emphasized that while online and social media platforms are “the prime sources of information”, they also have potential risks and dangers. Children and young people are targeted by “toxic advertising and harmful, or even unlawful, content”. They may also be drawn in by online incitement to violence and radicalisation, abusive and harmful content like non-consensual pornography and deepfakes.

To strike a balance between “ensuring minors’ safe social media use and digital self-determination” and to protect them from potentially harmful behaviours and other dangers, the Assembly called on member States “to align their national legislation with the standards set by the Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Convention 108) and its modernised version (Convention 108+)”. This means, for example, introducing strict penalties for social media platforms when they engage in unfair commercial practices and collect and use data on minors for commercial purposes.

The report also recommends 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 submit notices that are treated as a priority.

The Assembly also urged taking measures to safeguard the independence of media outlets and to provide sufficient financial support to public service and local media to “encourage responsible news consumption and democratic engagement among young people”.

Finally, PACE highlighted the issue of “aspirational labour,” in which young people provide free labor in the hope of a future payoff. The Assembly called on developing regulatory frameworks to correct the unbalanced power relationships between young people and corporate platforms with for-profit business models.