War of the Words. The Online Conversation about NATO in Romania: Communicators, Content, Communities
The Covid-19 infodemic has brought forth an intensification of disinformation and conspiracy narratives, especially in the online environment. Beside the public health implications, the geopolitical aspect is also relevant, since Romania, a member of the EU and NATO, has constantly been under pressure from a multitude of propaganda attempts meant to undermine people’s trust in the West. The main goal of this paper is to explore the type of online information that the Romanian public is exposed to regarding NATO, an institutional actor representative for the Western model, specifically to assess the main communicators, content, and patterns of information dissemination. A dataset of Facebook mentions was created and filtered (n=9705) and visual network analysis was employed to build a NATO issue network. The main clusters of this network were analyzed to reveal that the two largest communities are structured according to a political cleavage, while an anti-Western media actor, Sputnik, controls a separate cluster, but its content infiltrates several others. Qualitative content analysis on a relevance sample of the most frequently distributed content was employed to evaluate both attitudes toward NATO (negative stances were identified in several analyzed documents) and the occurrence of conspiracy narratives (also a significant presence).
The Journal holds the rights to the articles it publishes. RJCPR uses a CC BY-NC license for published articles.