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Go Ask Your Mama! Finland to Adopt Age Threshold for Social Media

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Finland is poised to adopt new age restrictions for social media from 2018. Finnish officials hope this effort will help safeguard youngsters' privacy and help them communicate in a more orderly fashion.

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In 2018, Finland will introduce a national age limit for the use of social media services, in order to ensure compliance with the EU's new data protection regulation. According to Finland's data protection ombudsman, the aim is to shield the children from the pressure to share personal information without their full understanding of the possible consequences.

The exact age threshold, however, has not been set yet, with propositions ranging from 13 and 16 years.

"In terms of the data protection regulation, the limit is 16 years, but at the national level, it may be defined anywhere between 13 and 16," the Justice Ministry's legislative councilor Anu Talus told Finnish national broadcaster Yle.

In practice, the age limit might mean that in the future underage users will have to secure the consent of their parents or guardians to sign up for social media services.

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Among other things, the data protection regulation stipulates the responsibility of database administrators to make sure that the users have reached a certain age.

"If we use a national margin, of course it would be good to be in line with other relevant age limits," Talus said.

For instance, the age limit for criminal liability is 15 years in Finland.

Just before the Midsummer holiday, a Finnish Justice Ministry working group proposed new personal data protection legislation to complement the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. Both the national and the EU legislation will take effect from May 2018.

Last year, Interior Minister Paula Risikko ventured that Finland could soon get more online police officers as the Nordic country was looking to clamp down on hate speech.

Earlier this year, an extra 25 web police officers were recruited in Finland to tackle online crimes and hate speech.

The new web crime investigation unit is based in Helsinki, with each of Finland's 11 police departments reinforced by at least one web police officer.

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The main goal is prevention, with the underlying idea of a police presence being a deterrent, as in real life. A web police officer may get involved with a combative conversation on Facebook or Twitter, where things are starting to heat up.

The new web police will be paid and trained with additional funding from parliament approved in a supplementary budget. The police and the Finnish Security Intelligence Service SUPO supplementary will receive some 10 million euros in additional funding, of which 1.3 million euros is earmarked specifically for the online police.

Despite hate crimes being a hot topic in Finnish media, charges of hate speech are relatively rare, and convictions virtually non-existent. During the past five years, only 14 such cases have been prosecuted in Finland.

The idea of web policing has since triggered criticism among Finnish social media users, with some using the epithet "thought police."

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