What we did: We supported civil society media watchdogs (MediaPoint Moldova) in implementing social media monitoring of the 2021 parliamentary elections.

What we achieved: We developed the expertise of local media and election watchdogs in social media monitoring and produced evidence of increasing levels of election campaigning on social media. The experience will enable the group to continue monitoring future election campaigns in social and other online media and advocate for more transparent campaigning practices and more effective national regulation of election campaigning. 

Who we did it with: Moldovan media watchdog MediaPoint and media monitoring experts from Slovak non-governmental organization (NGO) Memo 98.  

Impact area: Political Participation and Representation

Donor: Core 

Boundary partners: Public interest groups, political parties and oversight institutions 

In the run-up to the July 2021 parliamentary elections in Moldova, International IDEA supported Moldovan civic watchdogs to monitor the electoral campaign on social media networks. As the use of social media networks in the country, and particularly the political and election campaigning on these networks, continues to grow, the risk this carries for electoral integrity and democratic politics is growing too. Monitoring and oversight of electoral campaigns on social media networks are complex and difficult undertakings, with often insufficient mandates and capacities among both the state and civil society oversight bodies. 

The monitoring supported by International IDEA aimed to shed more light on how electoral contestants used social media networks and their diverse tools, and what risks and threats for electoral integrity this entails. The monitoring focused on the social media accounts of 23 parties and blocs and 17 political leaders—on Facebook, Instagram, Odnoklassniki, Telegram and YouTube. In addition, the monitoring followed and dissected key sentiments on 152 public groups and channels on Facebook, Odnoklassniki and Telegram. 

The monitoring documented an increasing trend of electoral campaigning on social media networks and served to highlight the dangers that unregulated online campaigning poses to electoral integrity. The monitoring identified several cases of disinformation and dissemination of manipulative content through anonymous public groups and channels. In particular, Odnoklassniki and Telegram proved to be places where spreading false information and hate speech was relatively easy, given a lack of self-monitoring by these platforms and by the relevant state authorities. Furthermore, it demonstrated the current lack of transparency in political advertising, given that only limited and insufficient information is currently made available by platforms about those who commission such content and pay for it.

Based on the findings of the monitoring, the report puts forward recommendations for state authorities, online platform and service providers, and public interest groups. To improve the integrity of online electoral campaigns and enhance public resilience to disinformation, the existing campaign regulations should be reviewed and adjusted to reflect emerging forms of online social networking. Most importantly, the report recommends that national authorities, online platforms and civic observers engage in a dialogue to find ways to improve the transparency of online political advertisements, and to develop mechanisms for the timely detection and sanctioning of violations of election campaign rules in the online sphere.