Moldova, like its neighbors in the region, faces challenges and threats to its national security due to the pervasive nature of media and information manipulation instigated by both internal and external actors. This challenge is particularly acute in digital spaces, where misinformation and polarized debate fomented by trolls and other impersonators seriously undercut the security and integrity of the public’s access to objective information. This toxic informational environment also fosters high levels of hate speech. According to a recent monitoring report by Promo-LEX, the frequency of hate speech in Moldova increased by approximately 83 percent between 2018 and 2019. Countries across the region are struggling to deal with this situation in a way that upholds international norms of respect for freedom of expression. While some governments (for example, Ukraine) have resorted to blocking undesirable media and information, this undermines the principle of freedom of expression and ultimately does not eliminate the greater threat in an effective and sustainable manner. On the other hand, letting hate speech proliferate online without consequence fosters polarized, and ultimately bigoted, views that can put civil society actors, minority communities, and others under threat.
Moldova is at a crossroads on freedom of expression, and the question of free expression in digital spaces has become a critical one. Around the February 2019 parliamentary elections, hundreds of fake accounts popped up to spread misinformation about political actors in the opposition, discredit civil society and leading independent journalists, and foment bigoted narratives about minority communities. This incident was not isolated, but demonstrative of an ongoing crisis of information manipulation in Moldova’s online landscape brought on by an onslaught of trolls, bots, dark ads, deep fakes, and other informational weapons. While civil society actors have played a key role as a watchdog on this issue, it is clear that this challenge requires a concerted, unified approach from civil society, government, lawyers, and the tech community. What is more, with a new government in power in Moldova, there is a chance to examine the current legislative framework governing media freedom and freedom of expression to determine how to tackle this issue in an ethical way.
This brief will explore the trends and proliferation of freedom of expression online in Moldova, as well as the most acute challenges and threats, with an emphasis on hate speech. The authors will propose clear, innovative policy solutions and recommendations.
Please submit concept proposals to [email protected] by October 18, 2019 with “Moldova Internet Freedom Brief” in the subject line. The concept proposal should consist of an abstract of no more than 200 words, an outline of the argument and recommendations to be presented, as well as the author and/or principal researcher’s CV. Priority will be given to concepts submitted in English.
Contracted researcher will be asked to deliver up to 5,000 words by December 1, 2019. The researcher will work in close collaboration with Freedom House’s Project Lead in Moldova. The brief will be published by Freedom House, with the byline and affiliation of the scholar or researcher. An honorarium of up to $500 will be provided.
This special report is made possible by the generous support of the American and British people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UK aid. The contents are the responsibility of Freedom House and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK aid, USAID or the United States Government. It is part of the USAID and UK aid funded project “Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova” (MEDIA-M) and implemented by Internews in Moldova, which aims to promote the development of an independent, professional media, and to create a media sector that is more resilient to political and financial pressures.
This special report is also made possible in partnership with the Embassy of Canada to Romania, Bulgaria and the Republic of Moldova.