By: Araz Asherian, reporter
On Sept. 27, Azerbaijan began shelling Nagorno-Karabakh (also known as the Republic of Artsakh), effectively breaking the ceasefire signed in 1994 and officiating war.
Nagorno-Karabakh (NKR) was formerly a part of historic Armenia. During the Soviet occupation, Stalin gave the land to Azerbaijan. In 1988, war broke out between Azerbaijan and NKR (the latter supported by Armenia). During the war, NKR democratically declared independence. This bloody conflict continued for six years until the death toll of both sides amounted to around 30,000. A new ceasefire was initiated on Oct. 10.
The war in Nagorno-Karabakh may have come to a halt but there is another war still raging on social media. Following the attack on Sept. 27, the Azerbaijani government initiated a social media blackout. All forms of social media, except for Twitter, were blocked. Armenians around the world are fighting an informational war. Unfortunately, they’re grossly outnumbered; the total population of Armenia is around three million, whereas Azerbaijan’s population is approximately ten million. In addition to their numbers, their support from Turkey (population 82 million) totals them to around 100 million.
Social media is a powerful tool to indoctrinate the masses and spread propaganda. The hashtag #DontBelieveArmenia recently trended on Twitter. In response, Armenians began taking over the hashtag and posting pro-Armenian content. Other hashtags such as #StopArmenianAggression and #StopArmenianOccupation are flooding social media, promoting false information. Historically, Armenians have been living in the region of NKR for hundreds of years before it was given to Azerbaijan. So there is no occupation. Armenia’s military budget consists of $0.6 million, while Azerbaijan boasts a budget of $1.7 million (their ally Turkey has a budget of $18 million). Not only is Armenia unable to afford to be the aggressor, but it also doesn’t have a large enough population to take on such a big country. Furthermore, following the current ceasefire, Azerbaijan broke it twice and fired on both Armenia proper and the capital of NKR.
Azerbaijan is also using bots to spread fake information. Craig Silverman tweeted, “Facebook… announced it removed more than 1,000 inauthentic accounts and close to 8,000 pages connected to Azerbaijan's ruling party.” The bots are spamming the comment sections of random posts with anti-Armenian sentiment. Victims of these attacks include BBC News’ post about an exploding supernova and Penélope Cruz’s post about the upcoming 355 movie. They also created fake Armenian donation sites that closely mimic real sites.
The Azerbaijani government is using social media to change the narrative of the Armenia people and dehumanize them. Should Azerbaijan declare victory, then as the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said, they will bring about the continuation of the Armenian Genocide. Please be wary of the information presented on social media, double-check the facts, and don't give in to hate propaganda.
This Article was last updated on Nov. 2, 2020
In an era of instant information and social media it’s easy for hate propaganda and dangerous nationalistic ideologies to spread.
Photo credit: Araz Asherian