24 Nov

#Armenia versus #Հայաստան versus #Армения

Twitter is a great platform, but for better or worse, it added support for non-Latin alphabets quite late. Today media.am had a great article on the use of the hashtags #Armenia, #Հայաստան (Armenia in Armenian script), and #Армения (Armenia in Russian).

I thought that I’d add an additional layer by doing a NodeXL hashtag analysis.

Here’s #Armenia


This is 2000 twitter users (a limit of 18,000 tweets) that used #Armenia in the last week. Group 1 are those that tweeted #Armenia but didn’t reply to or retweet anyone. Not surprisingly this is the majority of the use of this hashtag. They were mostly tweeting news stories about Armenia or were spammers.

The other groups though are quite interesting. They’re very tight clusters.
Group 2 seems to mostly be discussing the recent helicopter issue and features the popular Twitter user GoldenTent as well as the British Embassy in Armenia and the OSCE. Group 3 is talking about Armenia and Turkey and Kurds and seems to be mostly people in Turkey. Group 4 are talking about the city of Armenia in Colombia! Groups 6 and 10 are certainly Azerbaijanis based on the links that they share.

Here is #Հայաստան.


This contains only 90 Twitter users with tweets from the last week. There are almost no clusters as you can see. It does appear that these users are mostly writing in Armenian though.

And this is #Армения.


There were 162 Twitter users over the last week. Most were not replying or retweeting each others (see group 1) and their favorite links are usually instagram photos. Group 2, however, is considered a “broadcast” network where a lot of people were retweeting or replying to one user, SovietExplorer, a Russian news site. But Group 2 users didn’t have anything else in common other than a lot of tweets from Azerbaijani news sites. Group 6 is similar in a lot of posts from pro-regime Azerbaijani news sites.

I’d suggest that #Армения is a place where Azerbaijanis (also with Russian skills, obviously) are “seeking” to talk about Armenia.

27 Oct

Hashtag Shenanigans Again – Karabakh Edition, #azesaboteurs and #saveazehostages

It has been awhile since there has been hashtag shenanigans in the Caucasus. Some of the major hashtag shenanigans players fell out of favor. But this week things heated up again. I started seeing random odd tweets from accounts and upon clicking through it seemed like they were likely fake accounts – brand new, stock photos for the profile picture, few followers. These were usually in response to any criticism of Azerbaijan, but often with regard to Nagorno Karabakh.

This week the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan are meeting with French president François Hollande and last week the German Foreign Minister visited both countries. (John Kerry met with with last month, Putin in late summer, etc. etc.)

But perhaps of greater interest is that this week the authorities in Nagorno Karabakh put two Azerbaijani citizens on trial after they were caught crossing the border (a third was killed). The men say that they were going to visit relatives’ graves. The NK authorities say that the men killed a military officer. Azerbaijani authorities also note that NK has no right to hold a trial because it isn’t a recognized state.  RFERL story ArmeniaNow story Armenian RFERL

The other day I noticed a Twitter hashtag and Facebook group (with 8000+ “attending”) being promoted by the Azerbaijani ruling party’s youth wing. These sort of rallying around the flag issues are always interesting to me and I was a little surprised to see a lot of my oppositionally-minded Facebook and Twitter friends following this hashtag: #SaveAzeHostages. There was even a photo hashtag meme thing happening.


Meanwhile, Armenians created their own hashtag: #AzeSaboteurs.

This quickly turned into a hashtag battle.

It appears as if there are some fake accounts of some sort. For example, look at all these duplicate tweets (red/pink = duplicate).


Users zuma885, oqtay88, raminka10, and maxelmira, for example, have a lot of repeated tweets. And let us look at when these four joined Twitter! (Plus they use stock photos.)

These users showed up in both #SaveAzeHostages and #AzeSaboteurs.


Here’s the network analysis for #Azesaboteurs. It seems like Azerbaijanis may have “taken it over” but not to the extent that we saw in previous hashtags like #armvote13.


But look at #saveazehostages – what an interesting network analysis!


That center is the official Twitter account of the ruling party’s youth wing. Another power player is msabina34 who seems to be most interesting in One Direction. She tweeted on this hashtag over 100 times in one hour! There are also a number of other fake accounts on this hashtag.

It isn’t too hard to buy fake twitter accounts, but I wonder if this is a worthwhile investment? It is so obvious. I guess that the person in charge of this (likely someone at that youth wing) wants to show that s/he is a really dedicated member?

As a side note:

But this went beyond hashtag shenanigans and turned into a DDoS war. Here’s a report on what Azerbaijani websites Armenians took down. I don’t have any reports from Azerbaijanis.

24 Apr

Why is it impossible to hijack #armeniangenocide on Twitter? (Hye jack? ;))

Today is April 24th, which is the Armenian Genocide day of commemoration. All around the world Armenians hold events to raise awareness and remember their ancestors.

In the age of social media, April 24th has also moved online. For the last few years, Twitter hashtags of #armeniangenocide and #recognizethearmeniangenocide and #recognizearmeniangenocide have been common. This year I’ve also seen a growth in image memes or inspirational images posted to Facebook (not surprising, as that trend has been occurring on Facebook more widely.

In the past few months, we’ve seen a number of hashtag hijacks. Here’s my report on a hijacking of #armvote13, #protestbaku, and an attack on an individual.

In all of these cases, a group of individuals “take over” a hashtag by posting messages unrelated to the “spirit” of the hashtag. For example, #armvote13 was about reports of election violations, election results, etc, and people were using it to write things against Armenia and Armenians.

The result is that the hashtag becomes useless because the useful information is hard to find.

So, back to April 24.

Efforts were made to hijack the #armeniangenocide hashtag but this time the attempts were quite unsuccessful for a few reasons:

1. Unlike #protestbaku or #armvote13 – hashtags that were first being used by a small(ish) network of people to share information and second to get information out, #armeniangenocide is entirely an awareness-building hashtag with no information sharing or coordination purpose.

2. To use #protestbaku or #armvote13 you actually had to KNOW that the hashtag existed – someone had to tell you, or people you know on Twitter were using it. (And in both cases, the hashtag was decided upon by small groups of well known users and announced before the event.) #armeniangenocide is a no-brainer! This is the term that people use – it isn’t something that someone had to invent. So any person, veteran Twitter user or not, can get on Twitter, write a message “Hey, don’t forget the #armeniangenocide” and never use the hashtag again.

3. Similarly, it isn’t useful to follow the hashtag #armeniangenocide — it isn’t like #armvote13 where someone may be sitting at home waiting to hear news, or a hashtag like #ica13 (that I use for an academic conference) where people want information on hotel deals or something. There is no purpose in following #armeniangenocide as a hashtag.

4. Star Power! Armenians happen to have a TON of celebrities amongst their people. The most (in)famous in the 21st century is Kim Kardashian (and her siblings and their various significant others and their quarter Armenian spawn.) Kim has 17 MILLION Twitter followers. As my colleague Sarah Kendzior eloquently wrote last fall, when the Kardashians tweet about something, a LOT of people see it. (Sister Khloe and Kourtney have 8 million followers each, brother Rob has 4 million.)


This morning when Kim tweeted about the Armenian Genocide, she had over 1000 retweets every minute.

Given all of this, trying to hijack the #armeniangenocide hashtag is a waste of time.

I did a few nodexl hashtag analyses today, but the hashtag was so busy, there was no way to really track it.

#armeniangenocide 10am ET April 24
#RecognizeArmenianGenocide 11am ET April 24
#RecognizeArmenianGenocide 11:20am ET April 24
#armeniangenocide 2:30pm ET April 24
#recognizearmeniangenocide 2:30pm ET April 24

There is one other reason that the efforts to hijack the #armeniangenocide hashtag were futile.

Some of the Twitter accounts that tried to take over the hashtag were either spam/fake accounts or the real people that were trying to take over the hashtag had, amongst their followers, many fake accounts. As a result, it LOOKS like the person is more powerful on Twitter than they really are because they can make more “impressions” (more people will “see” what they wrote.)

Moreover, one can see using particular tools when there is an unusual growth in followers. For example, the below image.


If one were to try to acquire a bunch of Twitter followers in order to look more important or powerful or influential, one should try to be less obvious about it.

Normally Twitter users have written at least one tweet and follow some people. Furthermore, no native English speaker would write their location as CANADA, Regina or USA, Connecticut. Mine is Seattle, WA. At a quick glance of my friends, almost every American and Canadian writes their location in the way that we do on letters: Ann Arbor (city), MI (state abbreviation).


If you’d like to look at the Excel file of this particular Twitter user, contact me @katypearce on Twitter and I’ll send it to you. Even though this is all publicly available data, in honor of privacy, I won’t post it here.

14 Jan

#protestbaku – now that the weekend is over, what happened?

Here’s the at-the-time-of-the-protest analysis.
And here are some updates from Sunday.


Link to full.

So 517 people tweeted.

The most “networked” of those 517 are:
katypearce (that’s me – full disclosure)

And the users who were replied to the most:

But the users who were “talked about” the most:

And who tweeted the most?

Also, my analysis of the hashtag seems to be the most tweeted URL.

So let’s talk about the groups.

Group 1 is full of Azerbaijani tweeters that I don’t know. The center of the network though is the aztwi account, which as I understand is sort of like an aggregation site of Azerbaijani tweets.
I don’t get a sense that this group is on one side or the other. Their hashtags, for example, range from the anti-government raufgetqarnıvıqaşı to the pro-goverment khadijautan.

Group 2 is a mix of on-the-ground people that often tweet in English with foreigners that are interested. eminmilli, fuserlimon, khadija0576, ljmaximus, with the regular crowd (myself included) of Azerbaijan watchers.
Obviously this is the group with which I’m most familiar, but just to share – this group had a hashtag of #humanrights as well as the other popular tags. Like I said the other day, this group did some logistics about police.

Group 3 is Baxtiyar Hajiyev’s group. Like I wrote on Sunday, it seems to me that Baxtiyar exists in a separate network from those mentioned above.
How was Baxtiyar’s group different from Group 2? I’m not entirely sure, but as I said, I think that this may come down to language.

Group 4 is the pro-government youth groups, led by raufmardiyev.
They had totally different hashtags, URLs linked to… basically totally different. They also are notable for their use of the term YOLO as well as their “Shame on Khadija” campaign against a journalist.

I hope that this is interesting for people. I’m happy to run analyses like this on other hashtags or answer more questions!