The French daily Le Monde reveals that Moldova is facing a large-scale pro-Russian influence campaign on Facebook, as reported by g4media.ro.
“Moldova is full of surprises,” “Moldova live,” “Inspiration from Moldova”… In recent months, strange Facebook pages have emerged. Mostly written in Romanian, but also in Russian, they primarily present themselves as journalistic or current affairs pages, display the colors of Moldova, and publish discussions about local politics and the economy.
According to data shared with Le Monde by the Reset NGO, these false pages have been used, since July 2023, in an interference campaign aiming to defend pro-Russian personalities and interests in Moldova, using Facebook’s advertising agency.
Manipulation operations of this kind are not uncommon. However, this stands out due to the significant resources invested, according to Reset: the estimated advertising budget for the campaign is between 198,000 and 280,000 euros, nearly a quarter of the total money spent on Facebook political advertising in Moldova in 2020.
A preliminary report, consulted by Le Monde, lists 605 identified ads since July, gathering at least 155 million views. The main objective of this campaign is to promote investments in Moldova owned by Ilan Șor, a famous pro-Russian Moldovan oligarch who has fled the country and is now subject to both American and European sanctions for his ties to Russian authorities.
“For example, a ad on the ‘Moldova în direct’ page, funded with over 1,500 euros and viewed by close to a million people, states that Ilan Șor’s team repaired the roads on Trandafirilor Street in Orhei. Potholes were fixed, asphalt was redone, as well as markings.”
Some of the content seen by Reset was also broadcast before the local elections on November 5. They promoted candidates from the ‘Șansa’ party, a pro-Russian and clone organization of Șor’s, the old political group named after the exiled oligarch. Although the ‘Șansa’ party is prohibited from participating in elections, a court in Moldova recently overturned this decision.
The campaign’s goal is also to attack the European Union and the Moldovan government, at a time when the neighboring country to Ukraine is making new efforts to approach the EU, and as the European Commission has recently expressed support for opening negotiations for its accession.