Ukraine-Moldova: Different approaches to the expected intervention of Russia in election

Moldova and Ukraine will react differently to the threat of intervention of the Russian Federation in the election campaign. Social networks have created a new virtual reality, they become one of the most effective sociological tools, especially during election campaigns. Lock Russian social networks and information resources in Ukraine in may 2017 put to the test the delicate balance of priorities of national security and freedom of speech, especially in the framework of the 10th article of the European Convention on human rights. Meanwhile, Moldova has not yet taken action on the legislative level.

Ukraine has banned the use of Russian social networks, motivating this step by the need to protect its information space from Russia’s interference. “The security service of Ukraine constantly captures the active dissemination of resources through such anti-Ukrainian appeals to radical protest actions with the use of weapons”, — stated on the official website of secret services.

“Personal data of citizens of Ukraine are located in Russia and are under the control of the FSB. We can’t put up with it, especially in the context of hybrid threats. Because this is the perfect material for analysis,” said the chief of staff of the NSDC of Ukraine Petrov.

Lock raised the question of the proportionality of the ban threats, which can represent Russian social network. The European court of human rights has repeatedly stressed that freedom of expression may be restricted “in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety”, but these reasons should be clearly argued and focused, and when restrictions must be “effective judicial review to prevent any abuse of authority”.

Ukrainian lawyer Paul Bogomazov noted that the process of determining the mechanisms of control by the judicial authority is “long enough and not predictable.” And therefore, “most likely, the mechanism of implementation of the presidential decree [banning Russian social networks] will be implemented through the publication of subordinate legislation by the authorities,” he said.

In Moldova only begins the discussion of the confrontation of foreign and, in particular, the Russian propaganda. The Deputy of the Moldavian Parliament Sergiu Sarbu noted that while blocking access to social networks is not considered, but the Ukrainian experience is closely monitored.

In Moldova do not hide the role of Russian media influence on the election process. “It is unknown how we will emerge from all this, but it is clear that propaganda is still very much affect the security of the country. Although propaganda is not only us. This is being felt in other European countries,” he stated in an interview with Big Planet.

“The Russian system are a major source of influence and disseminate selective information propaganda in the interests of Russia, and used as a means of influencing safety [Moldova]”, — commented Sergey Ostaf, the Director of the centre CReDO (Moldova).

“The question is what to do to protect their own information space, if the Russian content dominates? One approach is to support the transition to the use of foreign products in favor of Western (mail, news, social services). This can be solved by a conglomerate of possible measures, including the promotion of national or Western products (deregulatory measure) strict regulation of Russian products in terms of content (as a regulatory measure with relative success), or a complete ban of the use of Russian products,” he said.

However, experts believe that in Moldova the Ukrainian version of the blocking of Russian resources will not work. “We had to solve this problem, no one will go to such drastic steps: first, the society itself perceive this negatively and, secondly, it will be very strong pressure from development partners (US and EU). Let me remind you that Western partners said the final word in the matter of the ban on Moldovan territory, the Russian propaganda TV channels, calling it undemocratic approach. So we have to find other methods and approaches”, — said the Moldovan political commentator Andrei Andrievsky.

Anxiety Moldavia and Ukraine concerning the role of Russian social networks is justified. In the Russian social network “Vkontakte” registered more than 380 million users. According to the ratings of the Israeli company Similarweb, Facebook is the fifth biggest attendance in the world. The resource is popular mostly in former Soviet countries, where network use from 1/3 to ½ of the population. The exception is Azerbaijan, where the effect of “Vkontakte” is much lower, though the resource itself indicates the country among the TOP 10 in its geography. More than half of the members are older than 25 years, that is the most important social stratum of the population in terms of impact on the socio-political processes.

“These technologies will undoubtedly be used in the political process, similar to elections in the United States and in Europe. The use of these technologies can simulate the influence of at least 10-15% of the population to achieve certain results,” Ostaf said.

Russian networks and information resources shall cooperate with the official authorities of the Russian Federation — as-level law and business. Russian social networks are under strict document “Spring package”, requiring all the operators and owners of messengers to provide the correspondence of users. At the same time the chief of staff of the national security Council of Ukraine Valentin Petrov stated that the Russian FSB controls data resources, including the Ukrainian users.

“Online resources have become the weapon of the strong influence, as they allow you to structure and gather information about users, to use this data to generate effects on behavior based on the collected, studied the data,” he said.

Russian social network became a shining example of a hybrid weapon. The St. Petersburg company “Internet research” reportedly controls the “Troll factory” using social network “Vkontakte” for the dissemination of information on pressing political issues (including the war in Ukraine and Syria).

Such collection of information and influence experts attribute including the phenomenon of “groups of death”, previously common in the pages of “Vkontakte”. “If you carefully analyze how are these “games of death”, it is obvious that this technology works with society. To break one of the strongest of instincts — the instinct of self-preservation is a task that can be solved only by using very serious developments psychologists and sociologists” — said Andrievsky. He suggested that this kind of technology “the blue whale” is unlikely to be used for political purposes, but added that “it was running some separate elements of the technology influence on society. For example, studied the suppression of the will or practiced creating a mass of secret societies. And now these separate elements can be used in the framework of some other projects on formation of public consciousness.”

Today it is safe to say that social networks have formed a new type of sociology: new methods of data collection, analysis and formation of new approaches to influence people. Given the ongoing efforts to appeal these techniques in the military-political purposes, will need to develop new methods of response to potential threats.