Under the chairmanship of BSPC-President Carola Veit, the President of the Hamburg Parliament, the BSPC Standing Committee gathered in Hamburg on 28 April 2017 to discuss the contents and preparation of its next annual conference on 3-5 September 2017 in Hamburg, including the preliminary draft of the resolution as well as the implementation of the 25th BSPC resolution from Riga.
Carola Veit began the meeting by expressing her sympathies to the Russian and Swedish peoples over the terrorist attacks that had taken place in Saint Petersburg and Stockholm in April. The attacks posed a challenge for open, liberal societies but, as she underlined, “we are not divided by those attacks, and we are a continuous example of open, tolerant societies bound by democratic principles and the rule of law”.
In his expert presentation, Dr Jan-Hinrik Schmidt from the Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research at the University of Hamburg lay the groundwork for the parliamentarians’ subsequent discussions, with his presentation on „The Participation Paradox – How the Internet is Shaping and Changing Democratic Involvement”. In his very informative speech he showed that social media platforms provide information from a large variety of different sources, ranging from professional journalism over celebrities to personal contacts. They present this information not as discrete packages of content, but as a constantly updated flow of microcontent. Selection and filtering, he said, were moving from editors to the users and to algorithms. Mr. Schmidt drew attention to the fact that the criteria and parameters applied in algorithmic filtering were largely unknown and intransparent.
Empirical studies show, he continued, that for certain groups and contextssocial media would provide people only with information in line with their previous interests, allowing people to remain (or retrench) in groups which constantly affirm their established opinions and world views, partially also fostering the spread of harmful, racist, hostile, sexist, etc. communication which impedes constructive debates (Hate Speech Scenario). The speaker underlined that this was not a general pattern for all users.
He further described other relations between participation and social practice, concluding that “The Internet, and social media in particular, foster participation by active citizens – and at the same time re‐affirm existing inequalities and challenge the foundations of democratic debate”. Based on this speech, the Standing Committee discussed among other topics Social Media Governance in particular.
The meeting further prepared the 26th Baltic Sea Parliamentary Conference, discussed the follow-up to the resolution of the 25th BSPC in Riga, informed itself about the work of the BSPC Working Group on Sustainable Tourism and discussed options of including young people in the work of the BSPC, referring to the successful Baltic Sea Parliamentary Youth Forum several weeks earlier. The Standing Committee also unanimously agreed to establish a new Working Group on “Migration and Integration”. Thereby, the BSPC will deal over the next 2 years “with one of the biggest challenges of our time”, BSPC President Carola Veit concluded.
A day before the meeting, the participants of the Standing Committee had been welcomed at Zollenspieker Fährhaus by Mr Börries von Notz, sole management board member of the foundation “Historical Museums Hamburg”. Mr Börries had presented the wide range of activities carried out by the three museums united in The Historic Museums Hamburg with 9 different locations including their branch sites and about 360,000 annual visitors. The mission of the historical museums of Hamburg, he’d said, was to render the present, in its complexity, understandable by showing the relationships in the history of the region, with its national and international connections, and making them accessible, thus contributing to a free and peace-loving society. “Only in an intensive continuing dialogue can we preserve the benefits of peace and prosperity,” the speaker concluded.