Skip links

Ungdomsbureauet (The Youth Bureau) matches Meta’s narratives

The story of The Youth Bureau began in 2013 with the ambition to give young people a voice so they could get involved in the development of society. This resulted in an organisation that quickly got a public meeting for the country’s young people on the drawing board. The result was the Youth People’s Meeting, which attracted almost 20,000 young people in the first year in the name of democracy. Today it is Europe’s largest democracy festival for young people.

The fact that it’s a great initiative hasn’t escaped Meta’s attention. The Big Tech company has donated DKK 1 million to the project: Future Generations Shaping Future Technology – also known simply as Future, which is one of the Youth Bureau’s projects.

According to its website, it is a “collaboration with Meta, which will explore the impact that future Extended-Reality technologies will have on democracy and society”.

The project is described as follows: “Throughout the coming year, Ungdomsbureauet will run with the tech industry and ask the crucial questions to stay ahead of the new digital reality that awaits us. We will be present at festivals such as The Youth People’s Meeting, go on field trips to Silicon Valley, and host smaller Future Labs. All to create groundbreaking analysis and understanding of upcoming technologies and kick-start the debate and conversation around the digital reality of the future.”

For Meta’s money, that is. And you don’t have to be a great detective to recognise the tech giant’s narratives in the projects that have been published so far. For example, in October 2022, The Youth Bureau published a report on the project, which states, among other things:

“If we make a virtue of talking about new technologies as something negative, we risk setting up a cultural and social norm where technology is always – and forever – first and foremost something to be feared” (…) “It does not have to be an either-or, but it is crucial that we consider whether we end up creating barriers to future technology in society if we articulate technology as an evil that is uncontrolled, monitoring and potentially more dangerous than our physical society. Specifically, we need to be careful that we don’t make being a technophile shameful or exalt being a technophobe”.

The youth agency does not declare that the report is funded by Meta.

In an opinion piece in Altinget March 2023, the head of the project from The Youth Bureau, Oliver Anton, writes that:

“There is no getting around the fact that our technological reality has become critical infrastructure, and for the same reason, it is time to raise our ambitions and adopt basic principles and frameworks for tech – and this is where youth plays a core role”. The project manager was also part of DI’s Nordic Metaverse Summit 2023.

You have to go to the Youth Bureau’s website to see that Future generations Shaping Future Technology is funded by Meta. There is no immediate declaration.

Visit to Silicon Valley
The Youth Bureau is an example of how Big Tech is going after youth. While ten years ago it was typically the Danish Association of Local Authorities and decision-makers who were invited to Silicon Valley, today it is youth organizations.

As part of the project, a so-called Future Squad has been set up, which another young organisation, Kritik Digital, is part of. The Future Squad consists of 15 volunteers who, for Meta’s money, have been on a trip to Silicon Valley to visit Meta, WEF and the Danish Tech Embassy, all of whom – according to Kritik Digital – believe that the metaverse will play a major role in the future. According to Kritik Digital, the Youth Bureau’s project Future Generations Shaping Future Technology has come about because of Meta’s XR fund, which will explore the opportunities and pitfalls of their new technologies, which will then enable the ‘metaverse’: “Meta has invested $50 million, almost 350 million Danish kroner in this XR fund, which supports similar projects. To put the amount in perspective, Meta’s revenue for 2022 – a historically bad year – is $116 billion, with a profit of $23 billion. The $50 million is only 0.04% of Meta’s revenue that year”, they write.

Meta has a page on their website that talks about the money they give to “independent researchers”: “We’re investing $2.5 million to support independent academic research across Europe that studies issues and opportunities in the metaverse”.

In this context, Fonden Ungdomsbureauet (The Fund The Youth Bureau) is a partner.

We have repeatedly tried to get an interview with project manager Oliver Anton, who has not returned our calls. We also tried Director Anna Asghari, whom we reached by phone and who said she would get back to us. We wrote questions to her because we wanted to hear the following:

  • How did the collaboration come about?
  • How much money have you received from Meta and is more on the way?
  • Do you see any challenges in taking money from big tech?
  • Do you always declare that Meta pays?
  • Are you worried about Meta’s narratives and attitude rubbing off on yours?

Anna Asghari sent us an email emphasizing that our work is important, but that Fonden Ungdomsbureauet would like to decline the interview.

This article is part of the report Big Tech Soft Power Danmark