Democracy is under threat worldwide due to waning information integrity, but civil society can counter media manipulation without violating fundamental freedoms.

The setbacks to global democracy over the past decade, identified by Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report, can be attributed in part to the fact that electorates are increasingly being misinformed by politically captured media or poor journalism. At the same time, the emerging threat of technology-driven disinformation is causing some societies to overcompensate by adopting legislation that contradicts press freedom principles.

The challenge of the next decade will be to address media manipulation and disinformation without sacrificing freedom of expression. Moldova provides clear examples of this tradeoff, and the necessary solutions for that country—investment in media literacy and an independent press council—could also be applied worldwide. These two measures can be effective in counteracting threats to information integrity regardless of the source and without eroding the protections that define democracy.

Buying up the competition

In 2008, a communications researcher warned that the increasing number of content providers in the modern media market was misleading because ownership was becoming more concentrated. Indeed, media ecosystems worldwide have seen strategic acquisitions and ownership shell-games that employ sophisticated legal or political tactics.

For example, Moldova has a history of media outlets being “captured” by political interests.  These outlets rely on their politically connected…