Seminar on disinformation in Gagauzia. Part 2
On August 24, the Moldovan section of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) held a training seminar in Gagauzia as a part of the international project “Mass Media, Opinion Formation, Human Rights”
The theme “Dissemination of fake reality”, which became the basis of the lecture held by the referent Natalia Smurgun, threw into a heated debate that illustrated the relevance and urgency of the discussed problem.
The speaker spoke about the situation in which the mass media in the Republic of Moldova found themselves. For the most part, all the mass media appeared to be divided between several clans in power. News portals did not act as informants, but as court propagandists. Various methods of public opinion manipulation were used: juggling with facts (spin), intimidation, quoting out of context individual phrases, excluding alternative opinion, lack of references to the original sources, news feed in the needed context. Thus, the point of view necessary for one or another political group is actually imposed on the audience through a smoothly running mechanism through television programs, newspapers, Internet portals and social networks.
The referent provided examples of the dissemination of fake information in the Moldovan mass media.
In addition, the referent touched on the topic of trolling in social networks. This is a very dangerous phenomenon when a troll disguised as an ordinary user does not express his point of view on the published material, but provokes readers triggering a negative reaction, or leads the conversation participants away from the essence of the news and transfers the conversation to another topic.
In order to impose the necessary point of view on society, trolls are used to promote the necessary information or to present information in the “right” perspective on numerous forums and social networks.
A heated discussion ensued after the presentation of the report.
Another participant of the discussion, the deputy of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia, ex-director of the gagauz television Ecaterina Jecova, emphasized that “if the European Union did not provide a long-term assistance to Moldovan non-governmental organizations and journalists, today we would not have known what independent mass media are and what independent journalism is. And no matter how hard it is for us today, we must make efforts so that future generations become even more informed and can make a conscious choice. Today we must implement those programs and tasks that will make our country even more developed and open. And it is very difficult to overestimate here the role of non-governmental organizations. The process of development of civil society must continue and increase its intensity. It is very easy to conduct and manipulate elections when the electorate is not very enlightened. These people are easily imposed upon; it is easy to promise them anything, impose hope and not to fulfill the promises. And an enlightened population is already a serious obstacle for promotion of disinformation”.
Thus, one of the participants in the seminar, a political strategist Elena Panus, spoke about how she, observing the activity of one of the Moldovan television channels, which claimed to be independent, noticed certain tendentiousness in the presentation of news. Certain accents are made in them, and the management of the channel does not hide its political preferences. “Point” people are invited to debates who discuss issues of a “selective” orientation, moderators are also not impartial. Thus, the channel can hardly be called independent.
Another participant in the seminar, the Vice-Chairman of the Cantemir region, Serghei Butuc, noticed that “today’s Moldavian society is divided, both ideologically and geopolitically. One part of Moldovan society is looking towards Europe and the European path of development, while another part of society is looking towards Russia. Besides, there is a territorial division of the country – Transnistria still remains outside the jurisdiction of the Moldovan authorities.
Under these circumstances, it is easy to manipulate public opinion, playing on emotions and using the rhetoric of hatred of a hypothetical enemy, thus further dividing the Moldovan society.
The participant of the seminar, Mayor of Basarabeasca, Valentin Cimpoies, believes that “now Moldova lives in the era of flunkers (low scorers) who took power in the country”. As an example he used a person who did not even finish school but became the chairman of the district. This man successfully, doing nothing for the residents of his region, for all four years was engaged in denigrating his competitors, using social networks, promoting and defending his interests.
“Today’s politicians do not need intelligent people, because they are difficult to manipulate. Rogue politicians skillfully use fakes and disinformation”, said Cimpoies.
All the seminar participants noted a good selection of material and a deep analysis of the topic. Listeners emphasized that the knowledge gained about disinformation, trolls and manipulation of opinion in social networks is very useful for them and this knowledge will be useful to them in their future work.
They also suggested to the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) that in future similar training seminars for high school and university students will be held in Gagauzia, as young people are the most active consumer of content on social networks.