Facebook Hate Speech Moderation: “Pink” Against Aysor.am

Marianna Danielyan


The Media Ethics Observatory (MEO) has issued its expert opinion on the complaint filed by the “Pink” human rights organization against Aysor.am. The dissatisfaction and protests were caused by comments made on articles on the suicide of a gay boy published by Aysor.am on November 15 and 21, 2023, on Facebook.


In November, Aysor.am published two articles: “A gay boy threw himself from the Bridge” and “Job Loss, Family Estrangement: Details Unveiled of the Circumstances Surrounding the Suicide of the young gay boy.” In the comments on their Facebook posts, there were calls for violence, and hate speech was generated.

The director of “Pink,” Hripsime Kizogyan, stated that in November of last year, news about the young boy’s suicide became known through Lilit Martirosyan’s Facebook post, the founder-chairman of the “Right Side” NGO. The news was subsequently picked up by online media outlets and shared on their news sites and social media pages. Additionally, the publication was posted on Aysor.am and shared on its Facebook page.

After the first publication of Aysor.am on November 15, we noticed a large number of comments that contained hate speech and incitement to violence. Our monitoring results show over 900 such comments, with only a minority expressing sympathy. Despite the significant hate speech, the news outlet failed to take any action regarding the comments on the material published on social media. They did not delete any comments containing hate speech or limit the visibility of such comments. Additionally, no warning notice was issued to urge readers to refrain from making comments containing insults and hate speech, highlighted Hripsime.

The director of a human rights organization stated that they did not contact Aysor.am’s editorial office prior to filing a complaint with the MEO. This was due to their previous experiences with recurring issues where media outlets refused to communicate or cooperate with the organization, except when they wanted to create sensational content.

“The news outlet did not use discriminatory language in its article, but the headline was highly insensitive. It emphasized the person’s sexual orientation as if it were a confirmed fact, even though there was no verified information at the time. This suggests that factual accuracy is not always a top priority for the media. Unfortunately, there seems to be a troubling trend in the industry where news outlets use neutral language and correct terminology, yet still perpetuate stereotypes and biased perspectives,” explains the director of “Pink.”

MEO’s opinion

The monitoring body reached out to the editors of Aysor.am, a non-member of the self-regulatory initiative, to conduct an investigation into a complaint. They aimed to request an explanation from the editors. However, the editors did not respond to the request.

Based on the RA legislation, ethical norms of media activities, and international laws, including case law norms, the Monitoring Body has recorded that:

  • There are no discrimination or hate speech instances in the publications under discussion.
  • In the comments of Aysor.am’s Facebook posts, hate speech, discrimination, and insults directed at LGBTQ+ individuals were not moderated by the media.
  • Although Aysor.am is not a MEO member, any entity that engages in media activities in Armenia should comply with the provisions of the Constitution and other legislative acts. This includes international legal norms that are part of Armenian legislation to prevent hate speech and discrimination. Specifically, entities should adhere to the requirements outlined in the “Delphin v. Estonia” precedent judgment of the ECtHR.

The Monitoring Body has reviewed the matter and has recommended that media platform moderates and deletes hateful and discriminatory comments on social media. This should be done for any future publications as well.

However, weeks of this recommendation was issued, the comments are still visible and accessible.

Comment moderation

The editor of Aysor.am, Hovhannes Kosyan, mentioned that no representative of the human rights organization had contacted them directly to discuss the topic. Instead, they chose to go through mediation.

Hovhannes Kosyan stated that after removing certain inappropriate comments, some users became angry and contacted the editorial office to accuse them of limiting their freedom of speech. However, the issue is complex and cannot be viewed from a single perspective. It is important to consider the right of individuals to express themselves on a public platform while ensuring that the platform remains respectful and appropriate for all users.

The editor of the media outlet stated that moderating comments is complicated, regardless of the topic at hand due to the high volume of comments, including countless insults.

Gnel Nalbandyan, MEO member and  editor, disagrees with this approach. He believes that, like the media, any user should be responsible for the public reaction generated in their social sphere.

According to an MEO member, the media is accountable for hate speech, insulting language, and calls for violence that appears linked to its publications. The absence of hate speech in published material does not excuse responsibility for the rest of the content, which may be considered freedom of speech. Although the lack of resources can be understood, it cannot be used as an excuse.

Aysor.am has indicated that they may soon include a notice for their readers, urging them to avoid making comments that contain insults or hate speech. However, they are uncertain if this measure will have a significant impact.

Hovhannes Kosyan proposes addressing the issue through legislation by creating targeted support mechanisms for media to regulate comments on social platforms better.

Marianna Danielyan

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