45north, in partnership with the International Republican Institute’s Beacon Project, analyzed Romanian language social media data from Facebook, Twitter and Telegram for the first six months of 2022, data associated with the war in Ukraine. You can find the full report above, including the methodology applied to the analysis.
February 24th, 2022. The whole world stood still when news about Russia waging war on one of their neighbors came in. Russia’s unprovoked attack against Ukraine, motivated by a false pretext, the “denazification” of Ukraine, led to a full-scale war and a strong response from the international community. Millions of Ukrainians would turn overnight into war refugees. We tried to find out how Romanians positioned themselves towards Ukrainian refugees by analyzing social media data from the three platforms mentioned above, to see if hate speech permeated the online conversation.
- Our research shows that Facebook is the dominant social media environment in which Romanian language users and organizations engage, with the number of median interactions per post for Facebook (19601) far surpassing Twitter (98) and Telegram (1432). The results for the first half of 2022 show that the vast majority of interactions for Facebook were generated by posts that support Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees.
- Only 10,5% of all Facebook interactions came from posts that opposed Ukraine.
- In posts marked as “oppose”, hate speech revolved around characterizing Ukrainian refugees as ungrateful, dangerous or rich (in the sense that they do not need financial assistance). Some of these posts ask why Romanian authorities and individuals should help Ukrainians when those resources should be used to help Romanians.
- Within the Facebook data of posts opposing Ukraine, there is a prevalence of far-right politicians who use the refugee crisis for political purposes, in this case by stoking nationalism and antigovernmental and anti-EU sentiment using refugees as a perceived threat. While the overall tone, especially in mainstream media, was not particularly aggressive, this is a dangerous path that could very easily escalate, especially relative to the developments on the ground in Ukraine.
- Moldova, a Romanian language speaking country with a population 7 times smaller that Romania (19,053,815 for Romania, versus 2,804,801 for Moldova), gathered 42% of total interactions on Facebook, which is a clear measure of the growing importance of Moldova both in the overall strategic context of the invasion, as well as in the specific context of the Romanian language social media ecosystem.
- As stated before, Twitter is clearly not the preferred social platform for Romanians. However, Twitter data shows that, relative to the total number of interactions coming from relevant posts, there are more interactions coming from posts that support Ukraine and less from posts that oppose Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees, when compared to Facebook data. While this data is encouraging, 50,3% (4957) of total interactions (mostly positive) came from Unknown sources, which means that with the potential rise in the number of Romanian language Twitter users, the need for further monitoring grows, to see how these unknown sources evolve over time.
- The analysis on Telegram is based on a limited number of channels (you can read more about the methodology in the full report posted above). The analyzed posts from the first half of the year had only 7160 views and all five of them supported Ukrainians However, four of the five posts came from a source (https://t.me/semnelevremurilor) that is labeled as Questionable, regularly posting content in opposition to Ukraine and its Allied support. Our other reports show that content coming from Telegram is usually hostile, in opposition to Ukraine.
- Both on Twitter and Facebook, another common theme when addressing the refugee crisis is comparing the aid that the refugees received, especially governmental aid, to the conditions that poorer strata of the local population live in. While it is difficult to categorize this as hate speech, it definitely instills resentment in the local population towards refugees by implying that the economic aid that the latter receive could have been directed to Romanians in need.
Authors: Dragoș Ghimpe, Dragoș Tîrnoveanu
This report has been prepared with support from IRI's Beacon Project. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of IRI.
The link to the full publication can be found: here.