Social Media Monitoring: Malign Security Narratives in Romania (Jul - Dec 2022)

45north, in partnership with the International Republican Institute’s Beacon Project, analyzed Romanian language social media data from Facebook, Twitter and Telegram for the last six months of 2022, data associated with the war in Ukraine. We analyzed the top 100 most popular posts based on the number of interactions gathered for three separate narratives: Appeasement, Anti-NATO/ Anti-US and Energy Security.

You can read the first part of the analysis here.

Key takeaways from all three narratives

  • Facebook, unsurprisingly, remains the most used social media platform, with orders of magnitude more interactions gathered than Twitter and Telegram. As with the previous report, we mention this obvious finding because it means that the structural particularities of Facebook as a social media platform must be understood and taken into account in any monitoring research. 
  • We saw a very significant drop in the total number of interactions gathered by each narrative. This drop is probably due to a combination of factors, but probably the most obvious and important is war fatigue. The biggest percentage drop was associated with the Appeasement narrative (62,1%, from 1,271,404 to 482,468 interactions).
RO HN Report 2 photo 1
  • The Anti-NATO/Anti-US narrative gathered the most interactions, as in the first half of 2022. As mentioned in the previous report, the scope of this narrative is broader than for the other two, which can explain the higher number of interactions, with some overlap of posts between the narratives. 
  • The key takeaway from the first six months of 2022, that videos tend to be prevalent in the case of Facebook posts, especially posts marked as “oppose”, still stands. This juxtaposition of the number of video posts labeled as “oppose”, with the number of interactions they gathered, clearly shows how effective this type of content is. This trend will probably only increase in the future, raising challenges about how AI use by malign actors will change the paradigm and how inbuilt safety mechanisms from social media companies (Facebook, YouTube, etc.) will cope with a surge in the quality and quantity of this type of content. 
  • Moldova remains a high-volume source of posts and interactions on Facebook in the second half of 2022. With a total of only 14% of Romania’s population, it remains clear that Moldova should be taken into account in future research, as it registered a huge increase compared to the first half of the year.
RO HN Report 2 photo 2
  • The percentage of posts coming from Fake/Conspiracy Sources as well as Questionable ones in the second half of the year remains very high and even more so when it comes to total number of interactions. It is desirable to have as many Quality sources and interactions with them as possible, but the ecosystem seems to have worsened, with even four times as many interactions from malign sources than from Quality ones. In addition, Political Biased sources remained very relevant in the second half of 2022 as well, with an overwhelming majority of 50,2% of all engagements for the Appeasement narrative.
  • The broad malign themes that were present in the posts labeled as “oppose” on Facebook included “we need to negotiate with Russia for gas” “sanctions will only backfire and don’t work”, “American/NATO troops are occupation forces in Romania”, “Romania will be dragged into war by America”, narratives very similar to what we have seen in the first six months of 2022. 
  • We further enforce our statement regarding Twitter, that it is not the social media platform that Romanian language speakers prefer. The broad malign themes that were present in the tweets labeled as “oppose” on included “NATO provokes Russia”, “America is a sinking ship”, “Americans are also corrupt”, “we should avoid a world conflagration by negotiating with Russia”, “Romania needs Russian gas”, “peace does not favor the US because of LNG and arm sales”, “supporting Ukraine encourages war, not peace” in line mostly with the narratives we have seen in the first half of the year.


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.