NDI has been monitoring the dynamic online political environment in Moldova in the aftermath of Maia Sandu’s victory in the November 2020 presidential elections. President-elect Sandu campaigned on an explicit pro-EU and anti-corruption platform and has been a frequent target of hate speech and disinformation/misinformation attacks since her rise to political prominence several years ago. While the presidency is a powerful symbol and has significant foreign policy and judicial powers, Sandu has lacked the necessary parliamentary coalition to govern and deliver on her campaign platform. Hence, anticipated early parliamentary elections (now scheduled for July 11) have increased the likelihood of further information attacks at both the presidential and parliamentary levels, to the detriment of all good faith democratic actors.
To further understand their local social media landscape, the NDI/Moldova team utilized CrowdTangle to observe and analyze content relating to political news and democratic trends within the country. NDI/Moldova set up CrowdTangle lists which included prominent politicians, all major political parties, various news portals, and CSOs. Overall, the top performing posts tended to be general and generic political and COVID-19 related news. In particular, two themes often dominated the top-performing posts: 1) Maia Sandu; and 2) potential early parliamentary elections. The combination of these two themes drove the majority of Facebook engagement within groups and pages during the monitoring period.
Maia Sandu’s account was consistently the most popular account monitored in terms of engagement, shares, and comments. Posts by or about other prominent politicians, such as Igor Dodon (former president of Moldova and PSRM leader) and Renato Usatii (mayor of Balti and leader of Partidul Nostru or “Our Party”), also made the ranking as top-performing posts, particularly when these politicians made comments or statements regarding potential early elections or mentioning Maia Sandu. Anecdotally, NDI noticed less information attacks on Facebook than on Telegram, where unsourced disinformation and misinformation seem to be more prevalent. This finding partially reflects the nature of NDI Moldova’s CrowdTangle lists, which were dominated by more mainstream and public political discourse.
NDI looks forward to continuing to use CrowdTangle to contribute to the ongoing analysis of political discourse and the broader information environment. After conducting an initial survey later this year, NDI will be able to explore specific research findings further with CrowdTangle and through focus group discussions. NDI will identify local organizations using CrowdTangle and organize workshops to share lessons learned and best practices.