Social Media and Information Wars


The past few days have seen a notable increase in cease-fire violations on the frontline of Nagorno Karabakh, with deaths on both sides (although more Azerbaijani deaths).

I’m currently in Azerbaijan, but I keep an eye on both Azerbaijani and Armenian social media spaces and these are a few thing that have happened on the Internet in the past few days:

1. A simultaneous “hacking war,” where teams from both sides try to take down websites, especially news sites, in the other country. This is far from new. Check out this article on this topic from the year 2000! Samvel Martirosyan does a good job keeping track of these sort of attacks from the Armenian perspective. There has been a major increase in DDoS and other attacks in the last few days, including popular Azerbaijani tabloid Haqqin.az being taken down on Sunday morning, although by noon Baku time, it was back up.

BuFzHCSIAAQc6G1(When the hacking teams take the site over, the usually post a graphic with the attribution of the hacking team that took it down.)

2. Information about what is going on is spread via social media and inevitably, information is not sourced well on either side. Granted, media is so politicized in this region that individual social media posters sometimes are the only source of information on a given topic. However, it creates situations where a piece of information can spread via social media and become “truth” quickly. This is especially the case when it comes to the number of soldier deaths – an individual says “There were 2 soldiers shot in THIS PLACE today.” without any source attribution.  In my estimation, there are more “quasi” journalistic sources in Azerbaijan than in Armenia and in both countries they are sometimes the source of new information, but that’s just my impression.

A case of this is photos of tanks going to the front line. One social media based Azerbaijani news source posted a photo of tanks on a train that was widely liked and shared. Then another set of tank photos was shared via social media and originated from a Russian news site, but social media users demonstrated that the photos were old. While it is possible that tanks are going to the front and that some of the photos are recent, some are obviously not.

Another interesting case that came out was ANS-TV (Azerbaijani state TV)’s website posted that there were 51 casualties on the Armenian side, and cited an Armenian journalist named Eduard Abramyan’s (that’s an incorrect spelling of that surname, by the way) Twitter account. But savvy social media users saw that the ANS screenshot of the Armenian’s Twitter account had the “delete” button visible, and that can only appear if one is the OWNER of the Twitter account. (Photo via Meydan TV.)

graphic

3. Yet, it is understandable that people are getting news from social media. There was a lot of anger in Azerbaijan on Friday that the TV stations were not covering this major news story. (Photo via North Caucasus Caucus.)

twitter

But at the same time, I wonder if the local TV stations CAN actually cover this story “live” a la CNN. I don’t know if they have the authorization to do so, or the capacity. Plus, this isn’t like an earthquake where there is a public service need to inform people “live” about what is going on. I suspect that people are angry and they want to direct their anger somewhere and the local TV stations are an open target.

4. And then there is the demonstration of concern about this issue via social media. The initial reaction amongst Azerbaijani social media users, across the political spectrum, was a great deal of profile and cover photo changes (or Instagram photo posts) to a black ribbon, sometimes with the Azerbaijani flag. (Much of it is of a religious nature as well, as noted by North Caucasus Caucus on Twitter, who is also collecting a lot of the social media posts.)

ribbon

ribbon2 remember

And beyond individuals, a number of the Facebook pages for Baku shops and eating establishments also started posting memorial graphics.

2014-08-02 20.31.402014-08-02 20.27.402014-08-02 19.51.102014-08-02 08.39.572014-08-01 11.54.512014-08-01 12.49.06

I guess if you’re a business, you’re damned it you, damned if you don’t.

For both individuals and businesses, there is a great deal of social pressure to demonstrate this sort of concern for this issue. I’m not saying that the concern is not genuine, but that social media encourages this sort of viral social pressure mentality. (See other cases of this here and here.) And this may be especially true in Azerbaijan where the demonstration of patriotism/nationalism is especially salient. (See here and here).

5. Twitter, unlike Facebook, is a space where Armenians and Azerbaijanis can “discuss” this issue and there certainly seems to be a lot of chatter, compared to the normal quantity of Twitter activity in both countries.

These are all the mentions of the word “Karabakh” on Twitter in the last 9 hours and the links between those users (note that most people in Armenia and Azerbaijan were sleeping at the time, so a lot of the posters are based in North America and Europe). Most mentions are disconnected from any other users – a lot of posting of news stories, basically. So this introduces a lot of people into a Twitter analysis who might just be posting a big news story “There is fight in Nagorno Karabakh” and they aren’t usually involved in regional Twitter stuff, nor are they engaging in any sort of discussion. This makes social media analysis tough!

Yet I have seen (not measured, but seen) an increase in random Armenians and Azerbaijanis responding to Twitter posts. I suspect that some (bored? young?) people do searches on Twitter to find people to “troll.”

In conclusion, this is a scary time and the escalation of violence is upsetting. Karabakh is a “frozen” conflict that is not actually frozen at all. And the Internet allows for information to be shared and disputed – which is both a good thing (more information from more sources may be good; and as more citizens have the ability to report on what they see, we know more about what is going on) and a bad thing (the ability to create false information, lack of attribution). Social media as a platform is similarly good and bad. People can demonstrate their concern for what is going on and discuss events, but also the harassment through hacking and trolling brings a lot of negativity to an already negative situation.

I wonder how the regimes themselves feel about all this social media information spreading. Are the regimes using it to their advantage or is it a dangerous unknown variable in the equation of battle?

There is a lot of other stuff going on in both states right now – Azerbaijan is in the midst of a human rights crackdown and Armenia is on track to become closer to Russia (who arms both sides of this conflict, FWIW). Escalations on the frontline may very well be a tool to distract citizens from other issues and rally them around a concern about “the enemy” – also this provides a good social pressure tool – “why are you so worried about X when our boys are being killed!?!”. And based on this social media analysis, people are very distracted by this escalation right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 


WVS: Is homosexuality justifiable? – entire world – map


I’ve written before about how difficult it is to measure attitudes toward homosexuality. But nonetheless, with the new World Values Survey out this week, I looked at some global comparisons asking is homosexuality ever justifiable (in this case 1 = never justifiable, 10 = always justifiable) and here are the results. Take them with a grain of salt because there is such a strong issue with social desirability here:

Here are the means:

hsjst

And methodology notes.


WVS: Media Use – Azerbaijan


More on methodology here.

The WVS media use questions are essentially useless (sorry WVS!) for my research. They ask about frequency of use as an information source and then use of a personal computer. However, since sometimes some people question my analyses about technology use in the Caucasus, these can provide a datapoint from an alternative source.

So first, lets look at personal computer use in Azerbaijan.

As of late 2011, 50% of Azerbaijani adults never used a personal computer and less than a quarter used one frequently. (Although I looked at “size of town” and those living in places with over 500,000 residents were slightly higher with 32% using frequent, 25% using occasionally, and 42% never using.) Note that the Caucasus Barometer has 15% of households owning a personal computer in 2011 (and obviously some people use at work), but the ITU says 39% of Azerbaijani households had a PC in 2011. The WVS makes the ITU data look questionable (again).

pc1

I also looked at the average age of each of these categories.

meanagepc

 

Then looking at information sources, 70% of Azerbaijani adults never got information from email and 56% never got information from the Internet. 19% of Azerbaijanis did get information from the Internet daily though and 44% had used the Internet for information.
The Caucasus Barometer from CRRC in 2011 found that 22% of Azerbaijani adults had ever used the Internet, so that sort of lines up with this WVS data. Maybe it is possible that people are getting information FROM the Internet, but not directly? (Grandson tells Grandmother about some news he read online?). The ITU says that in 2011 42% of Azerbaijani households had PC-based Internet. Given that some people have Internet at work, this doesn’t really line up perfectly as well.

infosource

I looked at age as well and for most of these, there are no age differences. Internet does differ between ages, with the average “never” using the Internet person being 45.98 years and then the average daily user being 32.43 and the other categories being in the middle of those in their 30s. Otherwise the differences were small or none at all.


WVS: Trust in others – Azerbaijan and world


More on methodology here.

I’m currently working on 2 different papers that deal with trust of others in Azerbaijan, so I was very excited to see this. As per what literature says, Azerbaijanis have very low trust in strangers and very high trust in family.

freq

means

 

And here’s the means of the world. Again, 1 is high trust and 4 is no trust. Azerbaijan has very poor trust in strangers compared to the globe

world


New World Values Survey is out


The World Values Survey is a large international survey, conducted every few years with a variety of cooperating organizations. In their words: it “is a global research project that explores people’s values and beliefs, their stability or change over time and their impact on social and political development of the societies in different countries of the world.” This wave included Armenia and Azerbaijan and they hadn’t been done in years, so I was very happy.

Most of the time they do a pretty good job measuring things. Sometimes I don’t LOVE their measures, but what can you do? Also the media use measures are far too limited for my work, so I don’t really use this too much professionally. But I will do some analysis on my blog for fun.

Note: there is an online data analysis tool, check it out!

The methods information is available here, but here is the information for the Caucasus.

In Armenia, conducted by CRRC, the data for this wave was collected in 2011 and is weighted against demographics. The sampling plan, gathered from the electricity lists, was:

The stratified two stage cluster sample using PPS methodology was employed, using the following stages:
(a)Stratification: The approach of stratification of households (and, correspondingly, their members: respondents) by the regions/marzes of the country was applied to design the sample. The stratification is being considered as preferable option, as it allows ensuring representation of all heterogeneity of objective social, economic, cultural and other characteristics of the sampling units located in different geographic areas/regions of the country. At the same time, it ensures quite internal homogeneity of the aforementioned characteristics within each stratum. Therefore, all households in the sample frame were devised into 11 strata by the regional criterion (Capital – Yerevan and 10 regions/marzes). At the same time, in each stratum the second level of stratification was carried out: urban and rural, in order to obtain the urbanrural proportions of the households at the regional and country levels. The same principle of the PPS stratification was applied also within the capital: Yerevan. There are some 7 districts in Yerevan, which were determined as sub-strata within Yerevan and the total number of households in each district of Yerevan in the sample is proportional to the general distribution of the households by these sub-strata.Thus, in total there are 28 separate strata and sub-strata, of which the selection of primary sampling units (PSUs) was carried out at first.
(b) Clusters (PSUs). Two-stage cluster sampling method was applied to the survey sample design. At the first stage of sampling procedure, clusters (city blocks) of households formed based on the sample frame were selected using SRS (simple random sampling) method. Approximately equal sized clusters of households were selected in each stratum. (c)Households (SSUs). At the second stage of the sampling procedure the secondary sampling units, i.e. households (SSUs) were selected in each already selected cluster, using the SRS method. In each selected PSU 20 SSUs were interviewed.
(d)Respondents (FSUs). In each selected household (SSU) the respondent/FSU (h/h member in the age group of 18-85) was selected using the recent birthday method.

For Azerbaijan, the data was collected by the International Center for Social Research and the data was collected in December 2011. Ages 18+.

Here’s the sampling plan:

11 economic regions of Azerbaijan were identified as initial strata. 100 PSUs were randomly selected with probability proportional to size of each strata, and then 12 persons were systematically selected in each PSU. The full list of election districts within each stratum were used for random selection of PSUs, and the full lists of voters within selected election districts were used for random selection of respondents. Both election districts (PSUs) and voters (respondents) were selected from the lists published on the official website of Central Election Commission of Azerbaijan (http://www.infocenter.gov.az ).
Thus, two-stage area probability sampling was applied:
(1) At the first stage – random selection of 100 PSUs proportionally to size of each strata;
(2) At the second stage – random selection of 12 respondents within each PSU.


Material Deprivation 2013 update


Material deprivation

Although many studies use income as a single indicator of socioeconomic status, certainly income is not a complete or direct measure of total economic wellbeing (Falkingham, 1999; Ringen, 1998). We use a consensual poverty measure, where the greater the number of consumable items absent, the greater the degree of material deprivation (Demirchyan & Thompson, 2008; Menchini & Redmond, 2009; Nolan & Whelan, 1996; for an extensive review, see Ouellette, Burstein, Long, & Beecroft, 2004), or what Boarini and Mira (2006) call objective satisfaction of basic needs. These have been shown to be most appropriate in the post-Soviet context (Falkingham, 1999; Kandiyoti, 1999; Rose & Mcallister, 1996), as income is low, irregular, and often not official. The scale used here (described by Rose, 2002) asked “what phrase best describes your family’s financial situation” and provided five choices.

Here’s the past.

And here’s some comparison over time (not comparing means, just giving frequencies.

MDyears