The online meetings are a developing phenomenon that will grow with the advancing of digitalization and migration of activities to the virtual space. The physical isolation determined by the COVID-19 pandemic served as a catalyst for accelerating digitization. Among the advantages of online meetings is the fact that they can involve persons who are in different localities, countries or continents. The weather conditions are not an impediment, while in the context of the pandemic restrictions the online meetings are a safe form of assembly. There are yet disadvantages too, such as the lack of human contact and precarious security of personal data , says a study conducted by experts of the Promo-LEX Association.
In a news conference at IPN, Florin Gîscă, one of the study authors, said that even if the practice of online meetings in the Republic of Moldova is not very rich, there can be delimited several forms of holding such events, including those that are preferred by the organizers. Examples of online meetings can be classified into several distinct groups, such as online petitions, labeling #hashtag or online flashmobbing. The virtual space offers multiple possibilities for assembly. Many technical solutions only start to be developed.
The study shows the online meetings have a series of advantages, such as facilitated organization, unlimited potential audience, lack of physical and geographical barriers and of physical danger. But there are also limits, barriers that need to be overcome for the meeting to have a greater impact. The main disadvantages are the barriers associated with limited access to audience, distribution algorithms, news bulletins, security of personal data of participants.
Another author, Alexandru Postica said that in the context of the pandemic, the UN expert for the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association back in April presented a set of recommendations for overcoming the problem of ensuring the right to meetings during the pandemic. Among others, the expert mentioned that the freedom of assembly and association online should be guaranteed by the state. In addition to the obligation not to block access to the Internet and not to apply online censorship, the state should make sure that the access to the Internet is ensured in accessible conditions. Moreover, the state should ensure that civil society organizations can take part online in the development of public policies.
Alexandru Postica also said that the UN General Assembly on September 17, 2020 published general comments on peaceful assemblies. The Assembly noted that the existing provisions protect the peaceful meetings wherever they are held: outside or inside buildings or online, in public or private places or in combination. The document also underlines the necessity of observing the access to the Internet as a precondition for guaranteeing the right to assembly.
The experts stated that the international standards define sufficiently well the extension of the right to assembly to digital platforms. The online meetings are considered similar to the applicability of offline meetings and the state should adjust its instruments and normative documents so as to ensure a benefit for all the persons who intend to hold meetings online, regardless of the place of stay.