The meeting started with an overview of national stakeholders and strategic partners. For Latvia, the following stakeholders were present on the call:
Latvian Internet Association: The Latvian Internet Association (LIA) is a public organisation that unites Latvian internet service providers (ISPs) and other domestic and foreign ICT companies in Latvia. The LIA aims to represent the interests of its members, develop internet-related legal provisions, express opinions about internet-related social and legal issues, collaborate with governmental and non-governmental organisations, and focus on the development of national broadband. Moreover, the LIA also coordinates the Latvian SIC. As such, the members of the LIA collaborate with and support the SIC in its awareness-raising activities and the development of educational materials.
Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development: The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development has been cooperating with the Latvian SIC for over a decade. Since 2022, the ministry and the SIC have had a formal cooperation agreement in place, which ensures national funding for the SIC. In addition, the Latvian SIC has also cooperated with the ministry during the drafting of the Digital Transformation Guidelines for 2021-2027.
Institution for the Prevention of Information Technology Security Incidents (CERT): The CERT is a structural unit of the Institute of Mathematics and Informatics of the University of Latvia (LU MII), which operates under the authority of the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia within the framework of the Information Technology Security Act. In this context, the CERT aims to promote IT security in Latvia. As a governmental institution, the CERT also supports the Latvian SIC with funding. In addition to this, it was also noted that the CERT and the Latvian SIC have cooperated in various joint initiatives in the past and they also actively collaborate in the fight against child sexual abuse and exploitation materials (CSAM/CSEM).
National Centre for Education (NCE): Although not present during the meeting, it was noted that the centre is also working in cooperation with the National Centre for Education (NCE). The NCE operates under the Ministry of Education and Science and develops school curricula. In this context, the NCE supports the SIC in the dissemination and promotion of the SIC’s materials and activities in schools across the country.
For the Lithuanian SIC, the following stakeholders were present during the roundtable:
Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau – Cybercrime Investigation Unit: The Lithuanian Police closely cooperates with Interpol’s Crimes Against Children unit and Europol’s AP Twins project, while also working directly with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) database. In this context, the police assist the Communications Regulatory Authority, which operates the Lithuanian hotline, in blocking and removing CSAM.
Office of Inspector of Journalist Ethics: The Office of Inspector of Journalist Ethics was designated as an ombudsperson institution to protect human rights. In this capacity, the Office Inspector of Journalist Ethics aims to ensure that public information is respectful of human rights and freedoms, to develop the civil society and critical approach to the public information processes, to raise public legal awareness and the awareness of human rights, to foster sustainable relationships between public information producers and disseminators and the general public, and to promote the responsibilities of public information producers and disseminators. In this context, and on the basis of the Law on Protection of Minors Against Detrimental Effects of Public Information, the hotline reports perpetrators to the Office of Inspector of Journalist Ethics, which holds the right to reprimand them.
Office of the Ombudsperson for Child's Rights: The Office of the Ombudsperson for Child's Rights is a member of the Advisory Board of the Communications Regulatory Authority. As the supervisory body on children’s rights, the Office of the Ombudsperson for Child’s Rights is informed about cases of CSAM reports received by the hotline. The Office then proceeds to investigate these cases and whether all procedures were carried out according to the law by all involved parties.
Ministry of Culture: The Ministry of Culture is represented in the Advisory Board of the Lithuanian SIC. As such, it promotes the coverage of the topic of media and information literacy in the Lithuanian SIC project.
National Digital Coalition: The National Digital Coalition was established in 2013 by various institutions, companies, and organisations from the public and private sector in order to promote digital skills for jobs in the country. Therefore, awareness raising on digital skills and online safety is within the scope of the Coalition’s work. Against that background, the National Digital Coalition have been a member of the Lithuanian SICs Advisory Board since 2016. The Lithuanian SIC and members of the Coalition regularly exchange information while also taking part and promoting each other’s activities and campaigns such as the Safer Internet Day (SID), Safer Internet Week, and All Digital Week events.
Update from the Safer Internet Centre consortiums
The Latvian Safer Internet Centre is coordinated by the Latvian Internet Association (LIA), which operates the awareness and hotline nodes, with partners the State Inspectorate for Protection of Children's Rights, which operates the helpline, and the National Centre for Education (NCE) carrying out train-the-trainer activities.
The SIC is co-funded by the European Union as well as from the membership fees of the LIA. It also receives national co-funding for various strands: the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development provides co-funding for the awareness centre, the Ministry of Defence and CERT provide co-funding for the hotline, and the Ministry of Welfare provides co-funding for the helpline.
The Latvian Awareness Centre informs and educates children, adolescents, teachers and parents on the safety of internet content and the potential threats on the internet (incitement to hate, racism, child pornography and paedophilia, emotional harassment on the internet, identity theft and data abuse, sexting, sextortion, and so on). In this context, the awareness centre produces various educational materials and activities.
During the meeting, the awareness centre also highlighted their Safer Internet Volunteers programme. This programme involves 30 active pedagogues, librarians and youth centre workers that help the awareness centre in organising their activities and disseminating their internet safety messages, as well as helping in the development of teaching materials and providing feedback on such materials. The programme has been actively running since 2017 with many of the volunteers remaining the same, resulting in a reliable network of volunteers across the country.
The youth panel of the Latvian SIC currently consists of 13 members between the ages of 10 and 18, which meet in person or online on a monthly basis. They share their experiences and thoughts with the centre and help coordinators make decisions about internet safety issues that affect children and young people. The youth panel has an important role in the development of educational materials, organising social campaigns, and other centre activities oriented towards children and the youth audience. An online meeting is the fastest way for the centre to receive the youngster's opinions on topics for video blogs, themes and speakers for SID, and educational materials for children and youngsters. Overall, youth panel members frequently participate in activities organised by the centre.
Child Helpline 116111 is operated by the State Inspectorate for Protection of Children’s Rights in Latvia. It is a general helpline service available for children and young people up to 18 years old. 12 employees run the service on a 7-day, 24-hour basis, available through phone, email, online chat and mobile applications on Android and iOS (available for download from the SIC website). The service is provided in Latvian and Russian languages, and anonymously.
As a general helpline, the service provides its callers with psycho-emotional support wherever needed. More specifically regarding internet safety, the helpline provides specific information, materials and advice on safe use of the internet. In this context, where applicable, the helpline refers the callers to the website and the resources of the SIC. In more serious cases, the helpline may also report issues to other authorities such as the police.
The hotline of the Latvian SIC is operated by the Latvian Internet Association (LIA). The service is offered as an online reporting tool where anyone can report illegal and harmful online content anonymously. The reports received by the hotline are processed based on legality and harmfulness to children. In this context, the hotline processes reports of content such as erotic/pornographic content without age (18+) warning, child sexual abuse materials (CSAM), violence/extreme content, cyberbullying, hate speech, and financial fraud.
The Lithuanian SIC is composed of four partners, namely: the Lithuanian centre of non-formal youth education (LMNSC), which is the coordinator of the SIC consortium, Langas į ateitį (Window to the Future) Association which is part of the awareness centre, the Communications Regulatory Authority (RRT) which operates the hotline, and Childline which operates the helpline.
The coordination of the Lithuanian SIC was transferred to the LMNSC from the former coordinator of the SIC project, National Agency for Education, in 2022.
As the Lithuanian SIC coordination has changed and a new funding application to the European Commission was recently made, the Lithuanian centre of non-formal youth education (LMNSC) is currently reviewing existing tools, resources and methodologies previously used in order to pave the way for the development of new materials and campaigns for awareness-raising purposes.
Besides the LMNSC, it was also noted that Langas į ateitį shares the awareness-raising responsibility of the Lithuanian SIC. To give some background, Langas į ateitį creates educational tools and resources that educators can use for their own activities. They also organise educational activities of their own as well as carrying out various awareness-raising campaigns.
The youth panel of the Lithuanian SIC, called the Childline Youth Advisers’ Team, is coordinated by Childline, which also operates the helpline service. The youth panel consists of 15 youngsters (3 male and 12 female) between the ages of 12 and 18, and represents different regions of the country. The youth panel meets online once a month and comes together in Vilnius four times a year.
Through the activities and meetings with the youth panel, Childline aims to better understand the needs of young people seeking consultations from the helpline, collect feedback on their communications and materials targeting the young people, and promote Childline as a safer internet helpline service.
Established in 1997, Childline is a general helpline service that provides free and anonymous help to children and teenagers by phone, email or chat. Childline consultants listen to the children's concerns and try to provide emotional support. The helpline phone service is provided through the harmonised European children helpline number, 116111. The phone service is available every day from 11.00 to 23.00, while the chat service is available 17.00 to 23.00.
Childline operates three centres in the three largest cities of Lithuania, namely, Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipeda. Chat volunteers from across Lithuania are coordinated by the Vilnius centre. Moreover, during the pandemic, several people from other countries (Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and UK) also volunteered to provide chat counselling in the Lithuanian language. In addition to the 24 employees, Childline currently operates with 350 volunteers. It was also noted that more than 100 new volunteers are engaged on a yearly basis.
The hotline of the Lithuanian SIC is operated by the Communications Regulatory Authority (RRT), which is an independent national regulatory authority regulating the communications and postal sectors in Lithuania. The hotline service was established by the RRT in 2007, and became a member of INHOPE in 2008. The hotline receives national funding through the RRT, and European Commission (EC) funding through the Safer Internet Centre (SIC) project.
Reports are accepted and processed according to the operational procedures manual approved by the Police Department and by the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics under agreements with the RRT.
Reports on illegal or harmful content, such as pornography or child sexual abuse material (CSAM), content inciting racial or ethnic hatred, cyberbullying, content leading to violence or having other negative influences on minors can be submitted by completing a special online report form available in the newly named Švarus internetas (Clean Internet) website.
Further information about the Latvian Safer Internet Centre as well as the Lithuanian Safer Internet Centre can be found on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) public portal, including links to their national websites and other contact information. Similar information can be found on the BIK portal for all Safer Internet Centres in Europe.