Iceland’s President Seeks Owner of Lost Keys on Facebook Group

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

The president of Iceland found a set of keys while jogging yesterday and posted a message on a local Facebook group to help the owner retrieve them. The keys are currently being kept at the presidential residence until they are claimed.

“Only in Iceland”

During his morning jog yesterday, President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson stumbled upon a set of keys. Deciding to do the neighbourly thing, the president took a picture of the keys – which were suspended from a barbed wire – and posted a message on the Facebook group Íbúar Álftaness (i.e. Residents of Álftanes):

“Good day. Found this keychain this morning on the footpath along the Álftanesvegur road. The keys can be retrieved at Bessastaðir (the presidential residence).”

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Screenshot from the President’s Facebook Post

In his post, the President also included two phone numbers, which he suggested that the owner of the keys dial.

As noted by Vísir yesterday, several people shared a screenshot of the post on social media, including director Sigurður Már Davíðsson. Sigurður pointed out that it’s quite likely that it was “only in Iceland” where the president finds a pair of missing keys and posts a picture of them in his neighbourhood Facebook group.

In an interview with Vísir, Helga Kr. Einarsdóttir, the steward of Bessastaðir, stated that the keys were still being kept at the presidential residence as the owner had yet to retrieve them.

Legislation Still Pending on the Taxation of Facebook and Google

Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir

Imposing a tax on ad revenue collected by foreign tech companies such as Facebook and Google is urgent, the Minister of Culture and Business Affairs told RÚV yesterday. Ad payments to foreign companies totalled approximately ISK 369 million ($2.6 million / €2.4 million) in 2009 and have gradually increased to total nearly ISK 9.5 billion ($67 million / €62 million) in 2021.

Taxation still the plan, Minister of Culture and Trade says

Efforts have long been made to impose a tax on foreign tech giants such as Facebook and Google, which collect a large share of domestic ad revenue – but pay no taxes in Iceland. This creates something of a void in the operation of Icelandic media companies, as well as the state treasury, RÚV notes.

In September 2018, then Minister of Education Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, called a press conference to discuss plans to strengthen the Icelandic media environment by reducing RÚV’s activities in the advertising market and by imposing taxes on foreign tech companies.

“This is precisely why we’re proposing a uniform tax on national and foreign online media because a lot of this ad revenue is leaving the country. It’s not just us who are facing this challenge but our neighbouring countries, too,” Lilja observed just over four years ago.

RÚV echoed these statements to Lilja Alfreðsdóttir – who now serves as the Minister of Culture and Business Affairs – in an interview yesterday. The minister responded thusly:

“We decided to provide operational support to private media companies in Iceland, which was an important step. We’re currently reviewing the tax environment of media companies and taking into account developments abroad. But as I stated in 2018: the time is now, and we’re still working according to that plan.”

Foreign ad revenue rapidly increasing

As noted by RÚV, Statistics Iceland has compiled an overview of the distribution of advertising funds between domestic and foreign media. In 2013, the ad revenue of foreign media increased significantly at the expense of domestic companies. That trend has continued. In 2021, for example, when profits were expected to rebound following COVID, domestic ad revenue increased by 14%, while the ad revenue of foreign companies increased by 34%.

Statistics Iceland has also monitored ad payments to foreign companies, which in 2009 were approximately ISK 369 million ($2.6 million / €2.4 million) but increased to almost ISK 9.5 billion ($67 million / €62 million) in 2021. The institution honed in on ad payments made via credit cards, usually originating from smaller companies, or smaller ad campaigns, where foreign tech giants like Facebook and Google play a significant role. Their share of ad revenues has increased from 29% in 2009 when the total revenue was ISK 153 million ($1.1 million / €991,000); to 89% in 2011, when the total revenue was ISK 371 million ($2.6 million / €2.4 million). In 2021, their share of ad revenue was 95%, when total payments amounted to ISK 4.6 billion ($32 million / €30 million). The two companies paid no taxes in Iceland.

Uncertain whether legislation will be passed this year

Given the global nature of the issue, RÚV notes, the government has collaborated with other countries within the OECD on how to tax this revenue.

“I hope that we’ll find a solution because there are many domestic companies that rely on a fair competitive position against these international giants,” Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson told RÚV in 2021.

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir stated that resolving the issue was an urgent matter but was unwilling to promise that such legislation would be passed this year.

“It’s difficult to say. I hoped it would see the light of day in 2019, and then the year after. But then, of course, the attention of most governments shifted to the pandemic. But I feel like there’s a greater understanding of how urgent this is today.”

Incident Involving Refugee and Son Ejected from Bus Sparks Outrage

public bus Reykjavík

An account of a refugee and his son being prevented from boarding a Strætó bus from Reykjavík to Keflavík on Friday evening has invoked a public outcry and garnered a great deal of attention, both on social media and from community leaders, Vísir reports. Nichole Leigh Mosty, director of the Multicultural Information Centre, says the story isn’t surprising, and that cultural sensitivity training is important for people in service jobs who deal with diverse populations.

Refused to let another passenger pay fare

According to a public Facebook post published by Joana Diminiczak, a man and his young son boarded a Strætó 55 bus at the University of Iceland stop at 6:31 PM on Friday. The man attempted to use the payment card provided for him by the municipality of Reykjanesbær, but the card didn’t work. The driver told him he had to pay his fare out of pocket and began to berate him in front of the other passengers. The man called someone and handed the phone to the driver, who said that “‘these refugees’ never want to pay,” wrote Joana in her post, “they bring useless cards and he’s not a charity, he does his job, and wants to finally go home and have his dinner.” Joana continued, saying that the driver then turned to the man and said in English, “I live in Njarðvík [one of the towns that comprises Reykjanesbær]. I’ll find you.”

At this point, Joana said she attempted to intercede and pay the fare for the man and child, but the bus driver refused, saying he had called the police. “I ask him to call the police [back] and say the matter is resolved because I will pay for them, but he didn’t want to do it. When I say that I can call so he doesn’t have to, he still doesn’t want to let me pay!!! The man gives up, takes his son, and they get out. He looks up at the sky, near tears, but still with hope in his eyes of sparing the boy the humiliation, and says, ‘He watches us.’ We pull out and the bus driver proudly calls the police and says that he is no longer in need of assistance.”

Joana then concluded her post, writing, “Such drivers shouldn’t be driving buses. I hope that Strætó takes this matter seriously.” At time of writing, the post had received 202 largely sympathetic and outraged comments, many of which called on Strætó to address the situation. It had been also been shared around 1,400 times.

‘They need training in how to deal with this diverse group of customers’

When contacted for comment, Nichole Leigh Mosty, director of the Multicultural Information Centre, said the story did not surprise her. “I wasn’t surprised, because I know there have been difficulties implementing the Klappið app [Strætó’s payment app]. It isn’t designed for diverse members of society, for foreigners or senior citizens. And we’ve seen this behaviour from employees over and over. It’s a stressful job, but the fact that they are serving a diverse community means that they need training in how to deal with this diverse group of customers. But don’t make such prejudicial statements and [provide] poor service.”

Nichole says that cultural sensitivity training is vital. “Whenever we have people in a service position, cultural sensitivity is needed considering that there are all sorts of people who use public transportation. And those who are serving them need to be able to treat everyone who uses that service with respect.”

‘It’s very clear that we’ll be looking into what went on there’

Strætó’s director Jóhannes Svavar Rúnarsson told reporters that he wasn’t familiar with the situation himself, but that the case has been referred to the Icelandic Road Administration, which services bus lines that run outside of the capital area. However, at time of writing, Bergþóra Kristinsdóttir, manager of the Road Administration’s service department, said that she was not familiar with the situation either.

“It’s not a nice story. It’s not come across our desk, I’ve not received any other information about this incident. But it’s very clear that we’ll be looking into what went on there,” said Bergþóra.

Bishop Reprimands Reverend for Harsh Rebuke of Government

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir.

Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has formally reprimanded reverend Davíð Þór Jónsson for his criticism of the government on Facebook. Despite the admonishment, the reverend has continued to express strong disapproval of the government’s plan to deport nearly 300 asylum seekers.

“A special place in hell”

On Tuesday, May 24, Reverend Davíð Þór Jónsson of Laugarneskirkja in Reykjavík published a post on Facebook in which he criticised the government’s plans to deport an inordinate number of asylum seekers. Davíð Þór stated that the government had decided to “piss all over” the UN’s Conventions on the Rights of the Child and, in reference to the Left-Green Movement, observed that there was “a special place in hell” for individuals who sold their soul for power and advancement.

The reverend’s words did not sit well with Bishop of Iceland Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir. A press release published on the church’s website on Wednesday noted that the Bishop had formally reprimand Davíð Þór as she considered the reverend’s statements “harsh and in poor taste;” the church’s code of conduct requires that priests be “objective in their rhetoric.”

The press release further noted that the Bishop viewed the matter as being “resolved,” while iterating Agnes’ call for “humaneness and mercy” in matters concerning asylum seekers in Iceland.

“Pharisees, hypocrites”

Despite these admonishments, Reverend Davíð Þór continued his criticism of the government on Wednesday, this time referencing the Book of Matthew:

“Woe to you, Torah scholars and Pharisees, hypocrites! … You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape the sentence of hell? Because of this, I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and others you will flog in your synagogues and persecute in town after town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood shed on earth …
Pharisee: these words judge themselves.”

The reverend’s concluding words may be interpreted as a jab at Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir, Chairman of the Left-Green Movement – and the reverend’s former partner; earlier this week, Katrín Jakobsdóttir was asked to respond to reverend Davíð Þór’s criticism and observed that “his statements judge themselves.”

MP expresses disbelief

The fate of the asylum seekers remains to be determined. In an interview with RÚV yesterday, MP Arndís Anna Kristínardóttir Gunnarsdóttir of the Pirate Party expressed disbelief that the government and ministers would follow through with its planned deportation of nearly 300 asylum seekers.

Referring to a recent report by the Red Cross, Arndís Anna observed that what awaited the asylum seekers, in the event that they were deported to Greece, was “hopelessness, lack of rights, destitution, insecurity, deprivation, homelessness, prejudice, and discrimination.”

Icelandic Police Department Deactivates Facebook Page Over Data Safety Concerns

police car

The Suðurnes Police Department in Southwest Iceland deactivated its Facebook page yesterday, citing comments from Iceland’s Data Protection Authority about data security on the social media platform, RÚV reports. The Reykjavík Capital Area Police Department says it will keep its Facebook page running and that it ensures data security through other means. Facebook’s collection and storage of data does not conform to Icelandic law, according to the DPA.

In March 2021, the Data Protection Authority came to the conclusion that the Capital Area Police’s reception of information via Facebook did not meet legal requirements on the processing of personal data for the purpose of law enforcement. DPA Director Helga Þórisdóttir stated the institution’s comments were particularly aimed at instances when police requested information from the public via Facebook’s messaging function. Facebook’s terms of use clearly state that data sent through the platform is collected. Icelandic law bans the storage of such information outside the European Economic Area, Helga points out.

The Suðurnes Police Department deactivated its Facebook page yesterday, ten months after the Data Protection Authority’s conclusion. It is the only department to act on the comments thus far. Halla Bergþóra Björnsdóttir, Chief Superintendent of Capital Area Police, says the department does not plan on deactivating its Facebook page. “We consider it an important tool in communication with citizens. We took the Data Protection Authority’s decision seriously at the time and changed our work processes,” Halla stated, adding that the police use Facebook cautiously, including by requesting information through secure means, such as by phone.

Icelandverse Skewers Zuckerberg, Welcomes Visitors to Its ‘Immersive, Open-World Experience’

Icelandverse - Facebook - Zuckerberg

A new tourism ad from Inspired by Iceland skewers Mark Zuckerberg and his Metaverse, Vísir reports. The ad has already caught the attention of news outlets all over the world and has even been seen by the man himself, who seems to appreciate the joke.

In the ad, actor Jörundur Ragnarsson plays Zack Mosbergsson, a Zuckerberg lookalike with a Ceasar haircut and black shirt and pants, who wants to introduce a “revolutionary approach to connect our world…without being super weird.” This Icelandverse, he continues, is “enhanced, actual reality without silly-looking headsets.”

“In our open-world experience, everything is real,” says Zack, before walking into a glass door. “It’s completely immersive, with water that’s wet,” he pauses, dipping his hands into a pool at the Blue Lagoon. “With humans to connect with.”

Director of Marketing Sveinn Birkir Björnsson says the ad was meant “to show that it’s possible to experience amazing things even though you’re not in any sort of virtual reality. Amazing things exist in reality.”

Mark Zuckerberg saw the video less than a day after it went live, and left a comment on the video saying, “Amazing. I need to make a trip to the Icelandverse soon. Glad you’re wearing sunscreen too 🤣”

Inspired by Iceland was quick to respond: “Oh, hi Mark! You’re always welcome. Icelandverse is open 24/7!”

Facebook Maintains Popularity, Tik Tok on the Rise in Iceland

Nine out of ten Icelanders use Facebook regularly and over half use YouTube, Snapchat, Spotify, and Instagram. The data comes from a social media usage survey conducted by MMR last May. The survey also showed that 14% of respondents used Tik Tok, compared to just 0.2% last year.

Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat were the three most popular platforms (in that order) among Icelanders, unchanged from the previous three years. Facebook usage has remained consistent over the last four years, with between 89-92% of locals saying they use Facebook regularly. Instagram has grown in popularity over the same period: while 30% stated they used the platform on a regular basis in 2017, the figure this year was 55%. Spotify jumped from 26% to 57% over the same period.

Women were more likely to report using Facebook, Snapchat, Spotify, and Instagram regularly, while men were more likely than women to use YouTube regularly. While women’s usage of Facebook grew by 3% as compared to survey results from last year, men’s usage of the platform decreased by 7%.

Tik Tok showed more growth between years than any other platform in the survey, and 42% of the youngest age group (18-29) stated they used the platform regularly.

President Collects Support for Re-election Bid Via Facebook

President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson.

President Guðni Th. Jóhannesson’s inaugural term will soon come to an end but given current social distancing requirements, he won’t be able to hit the campaign trail to gather support for his re-election bid, Kjarninn reports. Rather, the popular politician, who has enjoyed a 77-85% approval rating for the majority of his term, is turning to social media to collect the recommendations required in order for him to qualify for re-election. He is currently running unopposed.

In Iceland, presidential bids must be submitted to the Ministry of Justice no fewer than five weeks before election day, which this year is June 27. In order to be able to run for president, a candidate must receive recommendations from a minimum of 1,500 voters and a maximum of 3,000. The recommendations must come from all four quadrants of the country. The president is elected by direct popular vote and serves four-year terms in Iceland, with no term limit. If no other individuals announce their candidacy for president, Guðni will be reappointed without an election.

“Dear Friends!” Guðni wrote in a post on Facebook on Friday. “I hope you are well. Eliza and I won’t be forgetting the spring days of 2016 any time soon. It was remarkable to feel the support and solidarity of those thousands of people who supported my presidential bid in so many ways. That warmth will always mean a great deal to us.”

“During the election campaign, we all resolved to show integrity and diplomacy, to be optimistic and industrious,” his post continues. “This hasn’t changed.” This time, however, Guðni noted, “the collection [of recommendations] must go forth in a different way than it did the last time. Unfortunately, we won’t have the same opportunity to go out now and meet people as far and wide and as often as possible. Instead, we must rely on social media and electronic signatures.”

While noting that the danger posed by COVID-19 has not yet passed, he urged optimism. “There’s great strength in this nation,” Guðni wrote. “Together, we’ve set our sights on overcoming this epidemic. And together, we’ve set our sights on creating an even better society than before. With this in mind, I decided to run for re-election. With this in mind, I want to serve this country and its people.”

“We’ve had to endure difficult and distressing days,” Guðni continued. “Most or even all of us know people who have suffered because of the virus, people who have lost a loved one, fallen ill, or lost their job. The epidemic has made its mark on our society and the entire world. Here at home, we are deeply indebted to the health care workers, civilian and virus protection leaders, and the countless others who have dedicated themselves to protecting people’s lives and health.”

Guðni ended his post with a link to the website where supporters can add their names to the list of recommenders for his reelection. “If you have any questions,” he added, “please contact me by sending a message on this page.”

Local Nurse Accidentally Invites 100,000 People to Her Sewing Circle

icelandic wool

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1570704093553{margin-bottom: 0px !important;}”]Nurse Guðrún Kristinsdóttir has made headlines in Iceland after inviting a third of the Icelandic population to her sewing circle. Kristinsdóttir accidentally posted an invite on the FB-group Gefins, allt gefins (Free, Everything for Free),  Fréttablaðið reports.

“Isn’t it time we get together? Personally, I think it’s time for a sewing circle. Dóra María hosted the circle last time. Should we stick to a system of alphabetical order, or do we have any volunteers?” Kristinsdóttir wrote, before realizing she had shared the message to the wrong FB group.

“OK, so I messaged the wrong group, but how about we go through with it anyway? How does Arnarhóll [a popular place for public gatherings in Reykjavík] next Friday sound? My kids are saying that this is the most motherly thing I’ve ever done.” Members of the group were more than amenable to Kristinsdóttir’s suggestion. The comments are, to say the least, comical.

“I’ve been reading the comments and my family can’t stop laughing,” Kristinsdóttir said in an interview with Fréttablaðið. “It’s good to make people laugh.”

Iceland’s “Largest Sewing Circle”

Kristinsdóttir’s sewing circle, which first met 30 years ago and is entirely comprised of nurses, has perhaps become the largest sewing circle in Iceland. “All of us studied together. They, of course, think the whole thing’s hilarious.”

Numerous members of the FB group Free, Everything for Free have volunteered to cater the sewing circle while others have offered to book musicians. Some agree with Kristinsóttir that the alphabetical system is, indeed, preferable, while others have stepped forward and volunteered to host the circle.

Íris Sif Kristjánsdóttir was the first to comment on Kristinsdóttir’s post: “I’m relatively certain you didn’t intend on inviting all of the group to your sewing circle.”

That’s when the ball started rolling. Almost 2,000 people have liked Kristinsdóttir’s post and nearly 1,000 have commented. Hrönn Hjálmars suggests a bingo night, Einar Ragnar Haraldsson says that he’s prepared to fly in from Denmark.

“Guðrún Kristinsdóttir, you’re the reason I love the internet. You just made my day,’ Heiða Dögg Liljudóttir writes.

According to current plans, Iceland’s “most populous sewing circle” will meet on Arnarhóll Saturday, November 2nd, between 14 and 17.

Kristinsdóttir herself plans on attending, along with the members of her original sewing circle.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”114165″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Icelanders Still Love Facebook

Although Facebook and its negative impacts have been under a great deal of discussion in Iceland of late, just under 50% of Icelanders still feel positively about the social media platform. Vísir reports that a new survey conducted by EMC Rannsóknir shows that Icelandic women, upperclass Icelanders, and Icelanders who live in the countryside tend to be the most positive about Facebook. Just over 30% of Icelanders are neutral about Facebook; 20% are negative about it.

The survey was conducted from August 12-24 and examined public opinion about 65 different companies in Iceland, including Facebook. A total of 1,170 people took part.

Icelanders have long been avid internet and social media users. In 2018, the country ranked 6th in WeAreSocial.com’s global Internet Penetration Rankings, with 98% penetration.

[media-credit name=”We Are Social” align=”alignnone” width=”860″][/media-credit]

The same organization’s “Digital in 2018 in Northern Europe – West” report showed that last year, of the country’s 336,400 inhabitants, 270,000 (80%) were active social media users and active monthly users of Facebook. 240,000 Icelanders (71%) were active mobile social users. Facebook was Iceland’s third most visited website, just after Google and Youtube. (See the full Iceland Digital in 2018 profile here.)

[media-credit name=”We Are Social” align=”alignnone” width=”860″][/media-credit]

EMC Rannsóknir CEO and owner Gísli Steinar Ingólfsson said that Icelanders’ overall positivity toward Facebook was noteworthy.“In spite of the intense and negative discussion about social media and its profound impact, Facebook came out really well in comparison to many companies in Iceland. This suggests that many people put more emphasis on the positive impacts of social media than its negative ones. It will be interesting to follow developments with this in the future and see whether attitudes change with increased discussion.”