With the increasing role of online networks and digital technologies in social and political life, their use and misuse for campaign purposes open both, new opportunities and formidable challenges for all electoral stakeholders. Online campaigning, like any other phenomenon, has clear benefits for democratic politics but is also a gateway for harmful practices for the integrity of the democratic process.
On the one hand, digital and online tools provides quicker and cheaper access to constituents and voters. On the other, online political and electoral campaigns have been marked by patterns of illegal and malicious methods of online disinformation and influence, including anonymous content, or illicit targeting of voters. These practices are enabled by a lack of transparency in political and electoral campaign finance and weak oversight systems that should ensure the integrity of these processes.
Weak regulation and oversight of the integrity of political finance is a long-standing challenge. However, monitoring and detecting violations, and enforcing dissuasive sanctions against malpractice in political finance is significantly more difficult after the arrival of online forms of campaigning (paid and unpaid). Political finance oversight agencies and civil society actors across the globe face similar challenges in ensuring that online campaigns comply with democratic standards which ensure the equality of contestants, principles of free and fair voting, and transparency and accountability in the role of money in politics.
The purpose of the conference was to exchange knowledge and lessons in addressing the challenges brought about by digitalization and online campaigning into the integrity of political and campaign finance. Participants reviewed the main trends and identified effective solutions and transferable practices in protecting the integrity of political and electoral campaign finance in the digital age.
This two-day regional conference brought together almost 100 representatives of governments, political parties, political finance oversight agencies, civil society, international organisations, and big tech companies. 481 followers cumulatively watched us online during both days of the Conference and until now. A particular focus was made on ensuring the participation of electoral and campaign finance stakeholders from Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, as well as global and international experts in the field.
The Conference was held at Castle Mimi, Bulboaca, Moldova on 6-7 July 2023.
The Conference was co-hosted by the Central Electoral Commission of Moldova, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) and National Democratic Institute (NDI). The conference built on partnerships forged for preventing an undue role of money in politics at annual regional conferences "Money in Politics" held from 2016 to 2018 but did not take place in the following years, for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Session I: Online Campaign Finance - Existing and Emerging International Standards and Best Practices
Session II: Regulating Political Finance, including Expenses Online
- Ms. Nana Kalandadze, Programme Manager, Regional Europe Programme, International IDEA
- Ms. Lina Petroniene, Chairperson of the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Lithuania
- Mr. Andriy Yevstihnieiev, Member of the Central Electoral Commission of Ukraine
Session III: Online Campaign Finance: Challenges and Opportunities for Political Parties
Session IV: Campaign finance monitoring and oversight: challenges and solutions from political finance oversight agencies
- Mr. Toni Grebla, Chairperson, Permanent Electoral Authority of Romania
- Mr. Ihor Kokhych, Head of the Apparatus, National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NACP), Oleksandr Balas, Head of the External Communication Unit of the Department for the Prevention of Political Corruption, National Agency for Corruption Prevention (NAPC), Ukraine
Session V: The role of observers in effective monitoring of online campaign finance
- Ms. Francesca Boggeri, Social Media Coordinator, Election Observation and Democracy Support (EODS)
- Ms. Viktoriia Maksymova, Political finance analyst, Movement Chesno, Ukraine
- Ms. Mariana Focșa, Analyst on political parties’ finances, Promo Lex, Moldova
- Ms. Anastasiya Romanyuk, Civic Movement OPORA, Ukraine
Session VI: Emerging threats in online campaigning: influencers, ‘troll’ and ‘bot’ farms, third-party financing and foreign funding
- Ms. Yuliya Shypilova, Programme Officer Eastern Europe, International IDEA
- Ms. Amilia Raituma, Head of the Investigation of Violations of Political Organizations Division, the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau (KNAB)
- Ms. Olga Snopok, Analyst of the Civil Network “OPORA”, Ukraine
- Mr. Levan Natroshvili, Deputy Director of the International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy (ISFED), Georgia