Recently in Moldova have been drafted several legislative initiatives for regulating the information space. According to the experts and specialists, they contain a number of serious flaws and need to be improved taking into account the best international practices and standards. In July, Information Policy Institute in cooperation with international partners has organised a platform for debates on the latest draft laws on Internet regulation in Moldova.
In June 2017, the Parliament has voted the draft Information Security Concept in the first reading. Ghenadie Mitriuc, Member of the Parliament, Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Parliamentary Committee for National Security, Defence and Public Order, believes that the contents of the document in its present form will not bring any benefit. «The draft that has been presented in the Parliament creates conflict situations with other documents in this area, its adoption in this form will cause, at least, confusion, and maybe panic among professionals working in the national security system of the country. Moreover, there is a reason to believe that the provisions of this draft will attract negative attention to our country from regional players», said the parliamentarian. According to him, the draft was not coordinated with many state institutions, although it is setting certain attributions on them.
Former Defence Minister, national security expert Viorel Cibotaru admits that the draft Concept that has been reviewed in the first reading, has completely disappointed him. «Same as a number of recent laws in this area, it involves a very close control of the Internet by certain government agencies, in particular the Information and Security Service, which could interfere in the activities of providers, as well as controlling the information space, including the social networks. This draft did not seem convincing to me in terms of cyber security and cyber defence», said the ex-minister.
In the opinion of Petru Macovei, Executive Director of the Independent Press Association, Secretary of the Press Council of Moldova, it is clear that the Information Security Concept needs to be improved and represents for the most of its part a declaration of intent that does not include specific measures in this area. «This draft document to some extent fits into the authorities’ desire to strengthen its control over Internet resources. In my opinion, it carries a number of risks, including a serious danger of violation of the public or individual interest. In its current form, the Concept of Information Security, as well as a number of draft laws related to Internet regulation, leave too many loopholes for abuse», considers Petru Macovei.
Alexei Marciuc, Executive Director of the Information Policy Institute, notes that on the one hand, Moldovan authorities contribute to the development of the Internet: increase its accessibility, ensure the availability of the Internet in educational institutions and libraries, develop the infrastructure, and facilitate the creation of local digital content. «In terms of the Internet penetration rate, Internet price and speed, Moldova is ahead of many countries. But on the other hand, information space is increasingly perceived also as a source of threats. The population is increasingly using the Internet, social media, and against this background, authorities begin to lose control over the information. A number of events in Moldova and other countries have shown that the Internet is also an instrument that can be effectively used for information influence, mobilization and communication», states the expert.
As a result, according to him, in the country recently have appeared several legislative initiatives in the field of information security, information protection, fight against cybercrime and combating abuses in the Internet. Among them there is the draft law No. 161, better known as the “Big Brother”, and the Law No. 281, known as the «Security mandate», which specifies the rules for conducting special investigation activities in the information space and involves the extension of the attributions of the special agencies in this area. The expert believes that their adoption without further elaboration by taking into account the best international experience and practices, might increase the risks of violating the balance between freedom and security at the legislative level.
Veaceslav Soltan, Head of the Department of Information Technologies and Fight Against Cybercrime of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Moldova, having evaluated the current legal framework for regulating the Internet, including the blocking of the access to the Network and the interaction of law enforcement agencies with the service providers, believes that at this stage, it meets the international standards. According to him, after the accession of Moldova to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, a number of amendments were made to the legislation, including to the Criminal Code. In addition there was adopted the Law on Prevention and Combating Computer Crime, which regulates a wide range of issues. «So far, in my opinion, the rights of Internet users are not violated», notes the prosecutor.
Experts agree that the situation regarding the regulation of the Internet in Moldova today is more or less acceptable, but, according to them, authorities’ desire to «tighten the screw» in the near future it might have an impact, and this situation can deteriorate noticeably. Viorel Cibotaru, in particular, draws attention to the fact that the proposed draft laws do not guarantee the preservation of the integrity and confidentiality of computer information in the event of its interception. «These guarantees should be stated very clearly, since in recent years the practice of the threats and of the compromising evidence shows that the imperfection of the legal regulation, and the possibility of using different interpretations of the laws lead to the abuse. There are a lot of cases when there were uploaded compromising evidences in the Internet and media, which was obtained through electronic surveillance», said the expert.
According to him, in Moldova, the attempts of the state to establish control over the networks as envisaged by the latest draft laws, in fact will not ensure the effect of security of the information space, but will affect the opportunities of the civil society, political parties, ordinary citizens, who will be restricted in their opportunities for expression of their opinions and criticisms towards authorities. «Initiatives are based on good intentions, but when regulating the information space, new tools should be found and administrative or criminal levers used by punitive institutions should be avoided. Otherwise, these initiatives cannot ensure the protection of society and citizens from modern challenges», believes Viorel Cibotaru, former Defence Minister.
The Program Director of the Legal Resource Center of Moldova, Nadejda Hriptievschi, notes that the draft laws contain a number of provisions that leave the possibility for abuse and raise many questions about their compliance with the international standards and practice. «For example, some of the obligations of the service providers are not completely determined, which can create real obstacles for them, or there can illegally be applied sanctions on them. Big risks could be seen in the vague notions, especially regarding «the obligation to suspend the access to all IP addresses on which web pages are hosted.» For example, the activity of such resources as Facebook or Twitter could be suspended in order to block messages that call for peaceful protests or other actions that will not please officials», believes the expert.
Alexei Marciuc draws attention to a number of important points that must be improved in order to reduce the risks of violations to a minimum. «This is, in particular, the legal regulation of the interception of information on the Internet, including the grounds and procedure for interception, transfer of data between agencies, and the methods of data investigation, etc. In addition, there is a need to improve the Criminal Code with regard to liability for unauthorized access to computer information. More clarity is required in the terminology and regulation of some procedures. It is very important to find those formulations that are acceptable to the society and that cannot be interpreted in a wrong way, with the involvement in discussions of the controversial provisions of all interested parties», said the expert.