Annex to the Digital Services Act Consultation - Nordvision The Nordic public service media (PSM) companies have recently had several issues with takedowns and
removals of content on online platforms. The issues vary from podcasts accounts taken down; claims of how
legal content have infringed platform community standards; brand stripping when published on third party
platforms; to having a service blocked and completely removed from app stores. In the light of the DSA
consultation, we find it important to illustrate some of the examples, and point to consequences and
measures to be addressed further. The situation where global online platforms ban, edit or erroneously
remove services and content from providers of legal content for conflicting with platform’s community
standards needs to be further scrutinized and addressed at EU level.
Editorial integrity is a key for trust in the media
Guided by strict national and European rules as well as journalistic and editorial principles, the cornerstone of
independent public service media is exercising full editorial responsibility over content. Public trust is built on
maintaining this independence. That is why, when digital platforms and social networks are used to make such
content of societal general interest available to audiences, it should never be subject to any undue form of
secondary control, be taken down, removed or modified. As Nordic PSM companies we want to operate on and
alongside digital intermediaries and social networks, with the right conditions creating sustainable business
relations, based on national conditions in the markets where we operate. All decisions are made and based on
Scandinavian values and we comply with national and European legislation and abide by the Press Ethical Rules.
Any attempt to influence or adjust content by providers of independent content of societal general interest
should be considered very seriously. Regardless of platform, our editorial policy and principles are the same in
all cases should the content be transmitted on television, radio or online. That is why, when digital platforms
and social networks are used to make content of societal general interest available to audiences, it should never
be subject to any undue form of secondary control, be taken down, removed or modified.
European digital regulation must safeguard freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The DSA should
establish safeguards which prevent platforms from applying additional or secondary control over such
content. This should include removal or modification based on platforms’ community standards. Terms and conditions are not national or European media legislation
Examples of removals mentioned here are often a consequence of the platform’s own terms and conditions and
community standards. Terms and conditions and community standards are unilaterally imposed with no
possibility to negotiate and they often have different criteria’s than the law/regulations in the EU or in individual
Member States. This has significant negative consequences as it restricts the editorial independence when
content providers use third party platforms to reach their audience. As such terms and conditions are regularly
more restrictive than applicable law or regulations in the Member States, causing unnecessary and unwarranted
removal of content.
Defining illegal and harmful content and related enforcement should therefore always be within the competence
of individual EU members states in respect of culture, legislation and fundamental EU values. Allowing individual
community standards, that are adjudicated with less than full transparency, to take precedence is a serious
threat to editorial freedom, freedom of expression, cultural diversity and media pluralism in Europe.
1. Content/app removed from Google’s Play Store
The Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) has recently had issues with Google over the removal and blocking of
updates for the Ramasjang app for children’s content. After ongoing differences over some time, Google decided
to remove the app in full of in August 2020, without providing DR with further information or a reason for their
decision. After negotiations, followed by an intense public debate about the need to guarantee editorial
independence to content providers on online platforms, the app was reinstated in the original form by Google,
without further information on change of stance. Brief summary of the case:
May and June (2020) DR had issues getting the children’s app Ramasjang (intended for kids age 4-8) confirmed
on Google play. The app and content were explained to be violating Google’s family policy’s definition in relating
to tobacco and violence, as the content contained the image of a traditional Danish liquorish candy shaped as a
‘pipe’ pipe being used by one of the children characters in a Sherlock Holmes resemblance.
• DR tried re-publishing/updating the app on numerous occasions without success.
• On Thursday July 30, DR received an email from Google that the app release/update was rejected again,
and where they informed that the app could risk being fully removed if DR did not correct/remove listed
items/content that Google could not approve.
• The 2nd of August, DR Children’s app was removed in full from the Google play store without any further
notice or information. DR discovered the removal after being notified by users not able to find it in the
• After several days, Google returned to DR claiming that it was on the grounds of GDPR issues that the
app was rejected and later removed. DR disagreed with this as that the app clearly linked to the correct
audience for the Ramasjang app with Danish language content.
• After requests for further clarification from DR, and after the story broke to the Danish press, Google
returned with further information on reasons for removing the app, among them how the app was
violating Googles ”Family Policy Requirements” and was not considered child friendly and suitable for
children in the addressed age group, as well as containing violence. According to Google, it is difficult
to have country specific regulation and therefore they adhere to the IARC (International Age Rating
Coalition) og PEGI (Pan European Game Information), and their own recommended age evaluation
o In the reference to violence it was explained how the app contained a game related to karate.
o Promotion of tobacco products: the app and content were explained to be violating Google’s
family policy’s definition in relating to tobacco and violence, as the content contained the
image of a traditional Danish liquorish candy shaped as a ‘pipe’ pipe being used as props by
one of the children characters in a Sherlock Holmes resemblance.
o Crude humor content:
In another game, users can press am illustration and play a fart sound.
• The removal of the app has been heavily criticized in Denmark for not respecting national legislation
and editorial integrity, and the app was reinstalled by Google without further changes.
DR has a long tradition in producing quality content for all ages and the Ramasjang brand has been developed
for ten years. Ramasjang is the biggest children’s tv channel in Denmark and its digital use is increasing day by
day. The underlying values is to empowers children, togetherness and curiosity. It is an award-winning app and
active co-creator of play and communities in Denmark. It has actively been reviewed by media researchers from
the University of Copenhagen and by an advisory board with members including Save the Children, the National
Agency for Education and Quality and the Danish Film Institute.
Google’s change of reasoning shows the power over access to content of general societal interest they have,
especially in smaller markets, leading to unsustainable B2B relations and a potential layer of additional editorial
control, which is unacceptable for independent media already adhering to strict editorial control and subjected
to specific regulation.
2. Sveriges Radio (SR) and Instagram’s takedown of account
In June 2019, the Instagram account for SR’s youth-oriented satirical show “Think Tank” (Tankesmedjan) was
suddenly, and without warning, removed from Facebook-owned Instagram. The production team were given no
real explanation, just a standardised alert that one of their posts had broken Instagram’s rules. SR’s got in touch
with a contact at Facebook in Sweden who passed on our concerns to their international moderating team. Two
weeks later the account was reinstated.
Following the takedown described above, Facebook has, in order to assist them in their decision making, been
provided with a list of all of SR’s accounts and been urged to check with SR before taking down one of SR’s
accounts again in the future. Constructive dialogue has been established and Facebook’s local representatives
showed a willingness to make some efforts to avoid future conflict of a similar nature. SR has however still not
received a full explanation for the temporary removal of the account though, highlighting the lack of
transparency for platform decision-making processes in general and what led them to remove the account on
this occasion in particular.
The case demonstrates the difficulties of receiving transparent and timely reasons for takedowns and the
unclear reasoning behind whether content or full accounts are removed and/or reinstated by the platforms. The
case also shows the importance of national and local contacts, with the opportunity to judge issues and relations
in a local context. Furthermore, it illustrates that sustainable platform to business (content provider) relations
are too ad hoc and dependent on good-will from the platforms.
Important factors here are further improved business relations and increased transparency between content
providers and the respective platform, as well as national contact points and functional reporting mechanism
implemented by platforms on national markets.
3. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and issues with Google
NRK has faced several specific challenges in getting especially child and young content approved as suitable by
Google. An example of this is from NRK Super, NRKs children channel targeting the youngest children, and the
content including the Fantorangen.
• When NRK launched a new game for children on their Fantorangen app in 2019, the update was
rejected by Google, citing legal and content-oriented rules. The reason was a picture of the Fantorangen
sitting on the toilet, where a farting sound and a gushing cloud is used to illustrate body functions. The
illustration led to the games not being approved in the children's category, as unappropriated for
children in the intended age group.
• The case ended with a demand to NRK for the games to be fully removed or adjusted to address a
higher age limit.
• Google recently claimed a “policy violation” had been found in NRK’s educational TV content about
puberty. The program was considered to be "sexually offensive or violent content". The same content
is well received and regarded as educational content in Norway by both Norwegian audience and
regulatory authorities. These examples show how content of general societal interest produced under
independent editorial control is facing secondary control and how content producers lack leverage and
safeguards of their independence when publishing their content on platforms where parts of their users
These examples again show how content of general societal interest produced under independent editorial
control by a media company is facing a form of secondary control by online platforms. As mentioned above, the
dominant position of the platforms lead to unsustainable relationships were local content producers lack
leverage and safeguards of their independence when publishing their content on the platforms where their users
4. Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) and attribution issues with Apple
NRK has on several occasions experienced that Apple podcasts remove NRK logos from their podcast programs
on the Apple Podcast app. NRK uploads the program with a picture including the NRK logo for each program.
Apple did not remove the whole picture but removed the NRK logo within the it, making it less clear that the
podcast programs are produced and published by NRK. The stripping of the brand of PSM companies on their
own content increases the distance between content providers and the public. Clear attribution should always
be given to the source as it is important for the audience’s ability to identify independence and trustworthiness
of sources, and in turn support the objective of informed citizens. Online platforms can through actions such as
in the case with NRK’s podcast operate in a manner that can decrease the prominence and clarity regarding
what content originates from trusted producers of content of general societal interest.