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The Citizens’ Panel examined citizens’ views and proposals for solutions to safeguard freedom of expression in Finland

In February 2021, the deliberative Citizens’ Panel met to discuss the measures that should be taken in Finland to protect people who are in the public eye due to their professions from hate speech and to safeguard free expression of opinion. Citizens’ opinions were examined as part of the OECD’s qualitative assessment of the possibilities for civil society to operate in Finland (Civic Space Scan Finland). The Citizen’s Panel was commissioned by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice, and Åbo Akademi University’s Samforsk (The Social Science Research Insti-tute) was selected as the party that implemented the panel.

The Citizens’ Panel is an example of democratic innovation, a deliberative mini-public in which a number of ordinary citizens discuss a social issue after in-depth familiarisation and produce recommendations for decision-makers or a wider electorate. Participants in deliberative minipublics are often selected through random sampling. The invitation to participate in the Citizens’ Panel on Freedom of Expression was sent to 3,000 randomly selected adults residing in Finland, and of the volunteers who agreed to take part 29 volunteers participated in the panel. Different sociodemographic groups and regions were represented in the composition of the panel. The Citizens’ Panel met virtually for one evening and two entire days, familiarized itself carefully with background information on the subject area, and heard experts on freedom of expression, hate speech and online harassment. The members of the Citizens’ Panel held discussions in small groups and formed their recommendations with the help of trained moderators.

In its collective statement, the Citizens’ Panel emphasises making hate speech and online shaming visible, the importance of straightforward and clear definitions and communication to the wider public based on these definitions, the proportionality of penalties, prevention, sufficient resources and the responsibility of online platforms. The Citizens’ Panel proposes a total of 25 measures to prevent hate speech and online shaming. The results of the Citizens’ Panel will be used in the preparatory work of the ministries and in the OECD’s Civic Space Scan of Finland.

Citizens’ Panel Final report

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