This content was published in the period between

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Kristina Persson is no longer a government minister, Minister for Strategic Development and Nordic Cooperation

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State Secretary Maja Fjaestad on algorithms and their impact on society

Published

“Algorithms in Society” is the name of a report presented at a seminar on Friday 11 March. To gain a greater understanding of algorithms and their importance to society, the Prime Minister’s Office’s Secretariat for Strategic Development for the Future tasked researchers Jutta Haider and Olof Sundin from Lund University’s Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences to find out more about algorithms and their social impact. The report was presented to State Secretary Maja Fjaestad.

  • Photo of Maja Fjaestad

    The report was presented to State Secretary Maja Fjaestad.

    Photo: Ninni Andersson/Government Offices

  • Photo of Jutta Haider and Olof Sundin.

    Jutta Haider and Olof Sundin from Lund University’s Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences presented the report ‘Algorithms in Society’.

    Photo: Ninni Andersson/Government Offices

  • Photo of Darja Isaksson

    Darja Isaksson, member of the Government’s National Innovation Council.

    Photo: Ninni Andersson/Government Offices

At the seminar held at the Government Offices, the authors presented the results of the report and discussed related issues together with Darja Isaksson, member of the Government's National Innovation Council, and Marcin de Kaminski, Policy Specialist on Freedom of Expression and ICT at Sida.

Ms Fjaestad is State Secretary to Kristina Persson, Minister for Strategic Development and Nordic Cooperation, and has received the report.

Maja Fjaestad, what are algorithms?

"Algorithms consist of instructions on what is to be done, with what and in what order. Information algorithms in e.g. software for search engines often control the news and information that meet us in digital streams and create what are called 'filter bubbles'. In other words, only certain information reaches us. This results in different people having separate news streams and search results, based on previous use, and so also different perceptions on the state of society. An interesting question is how we can encourage public debate, a diversity of opinions and the potential for scrutiny that includes source criticism despite this – how do algorithms affect democracy?"

Why did you order this report?

"The Secretariat for Strategic Development for the Future is tasked with identifying long-term issues of strategic interest. Algorithms and control of internet content are matters that, in the long-term, affect our absorption of information and thus the public debate and, ultimately, democracy. We ordered the report in order to build up knowledge, but also as background data for an expanded discussion on the interaction between standards and information management."

You personally took part in the seminar. What do you hope will come out of it?

"I hope that the report contributes to a broadened discussion of the interaction between technology, values and democracy. Technology is an integral part of a social context, which means that we need a dynamic discussion on how we want to use it. To meet the future, we need to embrace the potential of technology at the same time as we evaluate its social impact.