Conclusions from the Consultative Meeting „Young online“

Institute Alternative (IA) organised consultative meeting with young people from Montenegro. Meeting was organised within the project “Make Future Together: EU and the Western Balkans from the Youth Perspective”. The topic of the today’s “Young online” meeting was social networks, as well as freedom of expression in the Internet.

More than fifteen young people – High School and University students, between 18-24, from different cities participated. Due to the current epidemiological situation in our country, the meeting was held via the Zoom platform.

The meeting was organised so that young people, divided into groups, discussed certain issues and ideas concerning social networks and ways how to regulate this area. In first part of the meeting, young stated that they mostly use social media more during pandemic than in normal circumstances. Thanks to the social media, they are informed about numerous humanitarian or civic actions.

Work in groups was moderated by Dragana Jaćimović, Dina Bajramspahić and Nikoleta Pavićević (IA).

After working in groups, representatives from each group presented and explained their views and ideas with other in the plenary. After presenting views of each group, all participants voted through survey and thus chose what the conclusions  of this meeting were.

As a good sides of social networks, young people see that they enable fast flow and availability of information and communication with other people as well. Also, social media are good because they provide entertainment. Through social media small businesses, humanitarian and similar actions are more accessible to us. Positive is also fact that they reduce the space for political spin since information can be verified from several sources.

Aa a bad sides of social networks, young people said that social networks affect human psyche, create unrealistic standards through the influence of famous people and create addictions. Also, fast flow and availability of information can be also classified as bad sides, especially  because social networks are place where untruths spread quickly and easily.

The second part of the meeting referred to the ideas of young people, ie. in the ways in which,  in their opinion, the area of social network  should be regulated and who should be in charge of it. They stated that self-regulation by social networks is not enough, since these companies have their own profit goals and aim to have an increasing number of users and that is necessary to further regulate this at a higher level.

Some of participants thought that this might be a responsibility of one of the ministries of the states , but other participants pointed out that in that case there could be abuse and use of these mechanisms for settling accounts with dissidents.

Young people voted for the idea of formation of an expert body at the EU level, which would be composed of lawyers and IT experts, and which would have its own bodies / agencies in each of the countries.

Young people also believe that systematic education on the digital sphere is necessary, stating that, in addition to media literacy, it is important that users know their rights and the rights of others.

It is very commendable that young people have recognised both sides of this topic: the importance of freedom of speech and the breadth and pluralism that networks provide, but also the dangers of cyber violence, hate speech and the spread of misinformation.

Lazar Vujačić and Milovan Marković were chosen as representatives of young people who will present the conclusions from the meeting to experts in this field and discuss them at the panel „Freedom of Expression on the Internet: A Common Challenge for Montenegro and the EU”.

This consultative meeting is organised within the project “Make Future Together: EU and the Western Balkans from the Youth Perspective”, implemented by a network of think tanks from 6 countries in the region (Think for Europe Network – TEN), together with International Affairs Institute in Rome, Bronislaw Geremek Foundation in Warsaw and European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels. The project is funded by the European Union through the Europe for Citizens program.

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