Twitter culls Armenian manipulation accounts; Khojaly recognition demanded

By | Rachel Brooks

February 24, 2021 

Commentary

Image credit: above: President Aliyev stands in front of the Khojaly monument. “File:President Aliyev in front of the monument of Khojaly num2.jpg” by Rovhsan Garayev is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

On the same day that the Armenian lobby of California sent a letter to its state legislature to denounce the Khojaly massacre of 1992, heads of regional faith communities joined in solidarity to petition for international recognition of the massacre. 

Statements from regional religious leaders, and religious solidarity groups such as this one spoke out in strong condemnation of the Khojaly tragedy. 

A group of religious leaders across the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish faiths expressed their solidarity with the community as one Azerbaijan. AzerNews, see MenaFN wire, reported that the religious communities of Azerbaijan released a joint statement that called on international leaders, parliaments, the UN, and a variety of international organizations and international courts to assess the records of the Khojaly massacre. Given the nature of crimes of violence, ethnic cleansing, and vandalism, Azerbaijan states that the crimes committed on February 26, 1992, meet the criteria of international anti-genocide laws. The religious leaders of Azerbaijan called on the international community to recognize the Khojaly genocide as a tragedy and a crime against humanity in the same way that the international community recognizes the Jewish Holocaust, the Rwanda Genocide, and the events of Srebrenica. 

Author and news commentator Lowery Contreras addresses the issues of Khojaly’s lack of international justice.

Quiet acknowledgment, but not organized denouncement 

Recognition of monuments and efforts of the Azerbaijani republic to commemorate the Khojaly massacre have made their way to the international level. For example, UNESCO has documented via the CIPDH “The Cry of the Mother” statute on Khojaly Avenue, Baku, Azerbaijan, which was installed on February 26, 2008. 

 

Despite these quiet acknowledgments of Khojaly, the international community does not appear to have made a mobilized effort to recognize the events of Khojaly in the same way that it has recognized other acts of massacre in the modern period. 

Signaled shift in western bias with Twitter crackdown on Armenian “Azerbaijan-targeting” accounts

In the wake of the letter sent to the California legislature, Twitter likewise moved to remove 35 Armenian-linked accounts which were set up “to target Azerbaijan” as was reported by Reuters. Reuters reported that the 35-Armenian linked accounts were part of a much larger takedown campaign aimed at culling accounts with links to Iran, Russia, and Armenia. Twitter stated that it culled 373 accounts with such ties. Of these 373 accounts, 238 accounts had malicious ties to Iran. Twitter announced that it removed the 373 accounts for various violations of its user terms policy. In addition to the 238 accounts linked to Iran, 100 accounts linked to Russia were removed. This left a remainder of accounts with Armenian ties. 

This image is an example of tweets promoting violence against Turks and Azerbaijanis. As Twitter’s mass crackdowns on terms of service violation led to the removal of at least 35 Armenian accounts set up to target Azerbaijan, a shift in social media bias could be in order. Should social media bias relax, racist comments such as this, and denial of the Khojaly genocide may be reprimanded in a way that has not been seen before the Second Karbakh conflict brought both sides of the conflict online for a two-way coverage. 

Armenian Twitter accounts have been notoriously associated with hate speech against and targeting of the Azerbaijani community. As the Silicon Valley-based company moved to take down the 35 accounts in violation of its policies, it sent a message of a shift from bias against Azerbaijan to a possible increase in an unbiased representation of both nations. This is a departure from social media censorship reported in late 2020 when Azerbaijan appealed Facebook’s ban of accounts linked to the Azerbaijani Transport, Communications, and High Technologies Ministry. Azerbaijan appealed what is referred to as “an alarming trend” via Facebook and Instagram of censoring Azerbaijani voices, see AzerNews. 

The fact that Twitter moved to remove the harmful Armenian accounts linked to targeting Azerbaijan may signal a shift in social media bias toward the Caucasus ethnic demographics. This is a possible push in the direction of likewise removing accounts that condone violence and promote the push to denounce the Khojaly tragedy, or to belittle and make fun of it.

The Second Karabakh war signaled a shift in the representation of the Azerbaijani side of the Karabakh conflict, and the way in which the Armenian lobby has politicized and ostracized Azerbaijani diaspora in the western world. During the First Karabakh conflict, the internet was not a contributing factor to the distribution of information on the conflict. With the spread of digitalized information regarding the Karabakh conflict, the era of lopsided coverage and support for the politicized narrative by the Armenian lobby may be reaching its end.