A Sad Story About Us

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

Recently, a fake picture was circulated from my name. As they say, Fake. More on this is described here. And to put it briefly, someone had taken my picture from a recent Pechakucha Evening advertisement, edited it a bit, and wrote that “I Invite Everyone to the Rally Against Pashinyan.” After that, the picture began to spread.

What did we find out? The first interesting thing was that it was being spread by hacked accounts. In Armenian, with hacked profiles. This is not exactly typical of simple spam sites and groups that distribute material through fakes.

Another oddity was that in some of the groups where these pictures were posted, the admins were unaware of the source. Moreover, it was often not known why such a picture was posted in the group.

Another important circumstance was that similar pictures were created in the name of a number of other public figures. For example, the pictures and names of the spokesman for the MOD Artsrun Hovhannisyan, as well as a number of other deputies were spread.

Who is doing this and why? It is quite a difficult question. There are three main suspected groups.

One is the neighboring Azerbaijani propaganda teams. The other is domestic political information games, where you can often encounter quite strange propaganda acts. The third option is simply to collect traffic.

But I do not want to touch upon the possible authors in this article. The dialogue under the pictures was even more interesting if it could be called by that word at all. The feedback reveals a number of interesting issues related to segments of Armenian social networks. Let’s take a look at them in turn.

a. It is obvious that Facebook groups have two main approaches that are well illustrated by the ways in which such provocative images are disseminated. Some groups are very modest. Here, administrators simply do not allow anything to be uploaded except for pre-arranged content. In the other groups, there is no moderation, any transcendental material can be placed here and receive virtual satisfaction.

b) The readers, rather,  a part of them, are constantly spreading hate speech and blasphemy.

This portion is not small. It consists of a few thousand, if not several, tens of thousands of people who are constantly cursing. For them, this is a part of life. Spreading dozens of words daily has become the norm for them, and for some, the meaning of life.

There are approximately 1,200,000 active users in Armenian Facebook. However, a very small percentage comment on the materials. We are talking about just a few tens of thousands of people taking part in public debates.

At least several hundred, if not thousands, of such people managed to express their prestigious opinion just under these fake photos in a non-literary but influential way. And this hatred and poison can be found almost everywhere where social or political issues are discussed.

The problem is that the borders have been blurred, and people think that at least two blasphemies are needed on every topic. The number of those who write opinions sharply decreases, the number of those who write curses only increases.

This is a very worrying fact, as the underlying tendency only leads to the deterioration of the situation.

c) People perceive every post on the net as truth.

It’s enough to post a photo of someone and give it new words for hundreds of people to consider it a fact. It doesn’t occur to them to check, think. This is the most worrying thing.

There is talk of fake news and media literacy everywhere. However, it is enough to post a picture that says that yogurt is purple, and immediately a large army will begin to spread the idea.

Can you imagine how vulnerable our society is if you can put Artsrun Hovhannisyan’s picture on it, write on it that he is going to hold a rally against the Prime Minister and that several thousand people will seriously begin to discuss it? And it doesn’t matter whether they will be for or against it.

This means one simple thing: One day, someone with such lies will cause something bad to happen. We ourselves will not be able to understand how it was possible to deceive such a large part of the public.

P.S. I would like to point out that this case has left no trace on me. It is simply a tragedy that such cheap machinations can get people off their feet and devote their time and energy to such nonsense. To put it mildly, all this is sad.

Not to mention that it is impossible to understand half of the posts, as people even manage to make spelling mistakes both in Latin-Armenian and in Armenian.

Samvel Martirosyan 

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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