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 Exposing networks on Facebook:


 3 March 2011 | visits 2040

Recent events in the Middle East and North Africa have highlighted the potential use of online social networks for activism, but they have also added weight to personal and security concerns. In a recent interview with Radio Free Europe, for example, Evgeny Morozov even argues that internal security agencies might actually welcome the use of Facebook precisely because whole networks can be revealed and monitored. It's also specifically an issue I've been concerned with since starting to use Facebook for encouraging and maintaining contacts between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the absence of traditional means of communication because of the still unresolved conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh.
True, as a tool for online peace building, Facebook has proven its worth, but some activists in Azerbaijan havealready expressed concern at how connections with contacts and friends in Armenia could be used against them. "[One activist] said if pictures of Azerbaijanis together with Armenians are found on the internet, then they will have to go to the KGB and be questioned," a German journalist friend recently wrote to me after a visit to Baku, the capital of the oil-rich former Soviet republic. It's also not the first time that 'warnings' about Facebook have been raised by officials. And, following recent uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, one Azerbaijani youth activist was recently arrested after updating his status line calling for the same there.




In that context, the publication yesterday of an article identifying prominent activists and journalists in Azerbaijan who have connections with Armenian friends and colleagues has concerned many. A friend translated the article into English, but although that reads as fairly neutral, the original Azerbaijani is said to be quite critical, and almost portrays those named as "enemies of the State," as one friend put it. Responses to the piece from most Azerbaijani friends on my Facebook were also ones of alarm, with a prominent journalist calling it "disgusting." Other Azerbaijanis responded with "I'm so ashamed of this" and "Truly pathetic. What else can I say?"

It is no secret that a number of social networks, in particular “Facebook”, act as the force behind the processes taking place in the world today. “Facebook”, which has turned into an everyday necessity for millions, knows no borders in certain aspects. To the degree that representatives of two enemy nations and countries become friends on the site, in spite of everything. has tried to find famous Azeris with Armenian friends on Facebook. Though many of them make their friends list private, after a brief investigation it has become clear that tens of well-known Azeris are virtual friends with famous Armenian users.

Comments on the piece, also translated for me, were mixed, however. As in Armenia, hatred of the 'enemy' naturally showed up in some.

having read this, i am ashamed for our martyr mothers


why are these people alive? why don’t they go dig their own graves? i used to love that political scientist… i don’t know the rest of them. why do they keep such people at work? let them go work in armenia.


i have no words… they call them legal advocates? if any of them fought with these bastards for Karabakh, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. we used to respect many of these people….

On the other hand, there were those who considered the piece to be cheap and 'below the belt.'

shame on you for writing such articles.

it’s really shameful. laughable. you just show how low and backwards you are with such articles.

may god protect us from “patriots” like you. just try to do what Adnan Hajizada has done for this country, then maybe you can discuss the armenians on his friends list. you are not doing anything for your country with this “patriotism”.

so apparently the country has no problems other than this? or you don’t have the courage to talk about the real problems?

It remains unclear what the ultimate aim of the article is although one Azerbaijani tweeted a response saying that he believed it to be the continuation of an official campaign against Facebook use in the country just ten days before activists are planning Egypt-inspired protests. On a brighter note, however, it at least could backfire and demonstrate to many Armenians and Azerbaijanis that online communication and connection is possible. Indeed, since the article was published yesterday, its translation on my own blog has ironically resulted in three new contacts with people from or in Azerbaijan.


Even so, serious or not and as mentioned before in previous posts as well as by others, personal security and privacy issues are increasingly becoming important. 



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