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  1. 1. Networked Authoritarianism in Azerbaijan: How the Azerbaijani government uses the Internet to deter dissent Katy Pearce Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, University of Washington @katypearce
  4. 4. • Azerbaijan has a unique way of managing the Internet, by leaving the Internet “open”… • It can claim that there is freedom of expression • It can monitor citizens • It can use the Internet/social media as another information dissemination medium • This is unique, but could be emulated elsewhere • An opportunity to study mechanisms of control and dissent in the digital era SO WHAT? (a preview)
  5. 5. • 9 million people • Majority Shia Muslim • 99% literacy • Per capita GDP USD 10,000 • Oil wealth AZERBAIJAN
  6. 6. AUTHORITARIANISM IN AZERBAIJAN - Father and son presidential legacy - Suppression of civil liberties - Little freedom of expression - Pervasive bitterness - Apathy and fear - Self-censorship Azerbaijan is a petro-state whose oil revenues have allowed the regime to preempt any opposition.
  7. 7. • World has changed. • Performance of democratic attitudes. AUTHORITARIANISM AIN’T WHAT IT USED TO BE
  8. 8. THUS AZERBAIJAN CARES ABOUT ITS GLOBAL IMAGE (A LITTLE) Why? Because Azerbaijan wants to be seen (by internal audience) as important and powerful. LOREM IPSUM DOLOR SIT AMET EL QUASI IPSA OMNIS ISTEDOLOR SIT AMET EL QUASI IPSA OMNIS ISTE
  10. 10. BUT Not many Azerbaijanis are online 6% 14% 22% 33% 4% 4% 7% 11% 9% 12% 20% 24% 0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 2009 2010 2011 2012 Daily Internet users (%) (CB) Armenia Azerbaijan Georgia 19% 31% 38% 52% 19% 20% 26% 27% 25% 29% 37% 43% 0% 20% 40% 60% 2009 2010 2011 2012 Ever use the Internet (%) (CB) Armenia Azerbaijan Georgia
  11. 11. Azerbaijan can easily lie about Internet penetration rates. Moreover
  12. 12. WHAT ARE AZERBAIJANIS DOING ONLINE? 15% 8% 13% 10% 4% 6% Searching for information Facebook (raw number = 941,554 adults) Email Music / videos News Skype 3% Games Caucasus Barometer, 2012
  13. 13. THE PLAYERS 02
  14. 14. Some of those 11%-27% of Azerbaijanis are up for grabs. And as more Azerbaijanis get online, they will be up for grabs as well.
  15. 15. The Government
  16. 16. President 169,959 Policy decisions PR social media team First Lady 66,639 + 14,293 Daughters 123,000 + 2422 Pro-government youth 5,113 personality / 28,365 group More distant dirty workers 5 million AZN = $6.37 million Why? Facebook likes, late April 2013
  17. 17. The Opposition
  18. 18. Collective and Connective Action Networks ConnectiveAction • Self organizing networks • Little or no organizational coordination of action • Large scale personal access to multi-layered social technologies • Personal expression shared over social networks ConnectiveAction • Organizationally enabled networks • Loose organizational coordination of action • Some organizational moderation of personal expression through social networks • Organizations in the background, loosely linked networks CollectiveAction • Organizationally brokered networks • Organizations in the foreground • Social technologies used by organizations to manage participation and coordinate goals (Bennett & Segerberg, 2012)
  19. 19. Collective and Connective Action Networks in Azerbaijan ConnectiveAction • Self organizing networks • Outside of the formal opposition party system • Strong personalities • Reputation built &solidified online • Strategic use of social media • Strongest social media influence • Some openly critique opposition ConnectiveAction • Organizationally enabled networks • Individuals affiliated with looser organizations • Less social media influence than self organizing, although still large numbers of followers and friends CollectiveAction • Organizationally brokered networks • Traditional opposition parties use social media to some degree • Best known personalities do have many followers/friends/likes, but such little content, very little influence
  20. 20. 1649 5420 6249 7577 8000 9139 11353 12524 13679 16821 18000 22927 70000 78293 E D C F G I B K L J G A N O Facebook Audience Size (Late April 2013) Opposition leader Opposition leader Notable foreign audienceNotable foreign audience Primarily youth audience 8307 Self organizing networks Organizationally enabled networks Organizationally brokered networks 58024
  21. 21. Takeaways • Government is a hierarchical structure • Many followers, but entirely for information dissemination, little interactivity • Opposition networks exist in 3 forms • Traditional collective action • Use social media for information dissemination • Organizational enabled networks • Personality-driven, but within loose affiliations with organizations • Social media reach weaker than other types • Connective action networks • Independent from organizations • Social media is the organizing medium • Substantial audience
  24. 24. Connective Action - Self Organizing
  25. 25. Real
  26. 26. 10,500 AZN US$13,000
  28. 28. This is a “middle path” between open access and censorship. The Azerbaijani government claims that "there is Internet freedom in Azerbaijan“ because there is no filtering. By electing to define Internet freedom in the strictest sense of the word, the government uses a semantic shift to deflect criticism. Azerbaijan has a unique approach to Internet regulation AZERBAIJAN AND INTERNET REGULATION
  29. 29. CONTENT CONTROLS THAT REDUCE “INTERNET FREEDOM” Internet filtering Policing cyber cafes FIRST GENERATION SECOND GENERATION THIRD GENERATION Legal information control and illegal content, defamation laws Information removal requests Shutdowns Network attacks Surveillance State-sponsored information campaigns Trolling* Cult of personality* Direct action Deibert & Rohozinski, 2010; * Pearce, 2013
  30. 30. FIRST GENERATION Pornography is filtered Occasionally during elections there is greater filtering Recent blocking efforts and threats of blocking But there are no administrative or court decisions ordering blocking In an informal test of cafes, we found no filtering NOT EXTENSIVE BUT… Internet filtering Policing cyber cafes
  31. 31. SECOND GENERATION Offline laws apply to the online space – including defamation Publicizing opinions that instigate extremism or have “harmful content” is illegal Officials have claimed that spreading misinformation is a cybercrime and noted Skype and Wikipedia as threats to national security Wide scope of circumstances where ISPs can cut off Internet services Legal information control and illegal content, defamation laws Information removal requests Shutdowns Network attacks
  32. 32. THIRD GENERATION THE MOST COMMON FORM IN AZERBAIJAN Surveillance State-sponsored information campaigns Trolling Online cult of personality Direct action
  33. 33. Real • Activists report having printed Facebook private messaging transcripts handed to them while in police custody • Logins from multiple IP addresses in Facebook and Gmail • Arrests • Evidence of working with known surveillance firms Imagined • Reality does not matter when many believe that the government is watching SURVEILLANCE Real and imagined
  34. 34. • Azerbaijani government-controlled media links social media use with • Mental illness • Family tragedies • Criminal incidents • Sex trafficking • Pedophilia • Pro-government youth encouraged to become active on social networking sites • Instructed to expose traitors INFORMATION CAMPAIGNS State-sponsored
  35. 35. TROLLING Memes
  36. 36. TROLLING Twitter shenanigans
  37. 37. TROLLING Kompromat
  38. 38. CULT OF PERSONALITY Online
  39. 39. CULT OF PERSONALITY Online
  40. 40. DIRECT ACTION Online behaviors have offline consequences FIRST GENERATION
  41. 41. DIRECT ACTION Online behaviors have offline consequences 2013
  42. 42. WHAT’S THE ROI? 05
  43. 43. IS THIS WORKING FOR THE GOVERNMENT? YES Many people are afraid to express themselves The outspoken online are the already outspoken offline and are willing to take risks Social media provide an excellent way to monitor behavior The pro-government social media world is expanding There are few successful critiques What happens on Facebook used to stay on Facebook When things aren’t working, make new policies
  44. 44. IS THIS WORKING FOR THE GOVERNMENT? NO Opposition audience Network structures are advantageous Some opposition have access to foreigners and gaining attention Lack of sustainability
  45. 45. BUT THE GOVERNMENT IS WINNING… FOR NOW. By focusing on “the good life” and punishing dissent in a variety of ways, the government is solidifying its position. But is this worth the cost? The opposition on the other hand, has a network structure that is resilient and efficient. Some of the opposition responds to attacks in innovative ways.
  47. 47. Extra Slides
  48. 48. A OppositionParty1 22,927likes B OppositionParty 2 11,353followers/ friends Various Youth activist org 1 K 12,524followers/ friends J 16,821likes F Organization 2 7577 followers/ friends D Affiliated withOP2 5420 followers/ friends L 13,679followers/ friends H 8000 followers/ friends C Organization 1 6249 followers/ friends M ? I 9139 friends/ followers G 18,000followers/ friends N 78,293followers/ friends O ~70,000 followers/ friends E Youth activist org 1 1649 followers
  49. 49. Connective Action – Organizationally Enabled Networks
  50. 50. Collective Action

Editor's Notes

  • 01 INTRODUCTION Background on Azerbaijan Internet in Azerbaijan02 THE PLAYERS Government Opposition Network structures03 OPPOSITION INTERNET EFFORTS04 GOVERNMENT INTERNET ACTIVITIES05 WHAT’S THE ROI?
  • Authoritarianism is both a set of governing practices and an ideological construct. In the political sense, authoritarianism is a form of government in which state authority rests exclusively with sanctioned members of the state. Non-government actors are expressly excluded from governing processes, and citizens are not guaranteed political pluralism, civil liberties, or government accountability (Vaillant 2012). Operationally, authoritarianism entails low levels of political pluralism and high levels of political apathy and perceived political powerlessness (Linz 2000). Force, censorship, fear (Vaillant 2012), distrust of other citizens, denial of resources to opposition, harassment of troublemakers, media control, state dependence for employment, and suppression of autonomous organizing (Radnitz 2010) are common techniques to enforce an exclusive claim to power.As one of the most repressive of the post-Soviet states (Freedom House 2012), Azerbaijan exemplifies the extensive level of social control that post-Soviet authoritarian governments exercise over their peoples. Azerbaijan is a petro-state whose oil revenues have allowed the regime to preempt any opposition (Guliyev 2009). Azerbaijan has been politically dominated by a father and son since 1993. The son and current president, IlhamAliev, has suppressed opposition groups, violating basic rights and civil liberties and moved the country towards "full-fledged authoritarianism" (FrichovaGrono 2011). This rule has created a “pervasive bitterness and growing sense of deprivation” (Rasizade, 2003, p. 127), a general sense of apathy and fear (Abbasov 2010), and a lack of trust in others (Gahramanova 2009). As such, Azerbaijani society is fearful and self-censoring (Gahramanova 2009; Kazimova 2011).
  • 1.There is no more soviet sponsorshipDemocracy promotion is an industryInternet and technology has arrived2. don’t openly steal the election, pepper the speech with democracy slogans
  • Make an argument that not EVERYONE is on Facebook
  • Selling moral upper hand versus glamour and the good life
  • Traditional hierarchy in the government side of things – pretty much this is top downYou can see that there are a lot of followers, if there are only 941,554 Azerbaijani adults on Facebook, these are pretty solid numbers of followersBut the government is investing a TON into social media – why?This is a very important question… the 5 million manat question, if I may. - The government obviously has the upper hand – it controls all the mainstream media, it controls the legal system… so let’s come back to this question.
  • The opposition is, unsurprisingly a little more complicated….I want to present a framework of different ways that opposition members organize themselves – both online and offline
  • Organizationally brokered networks Strong organizational coordination of action Social technologies used by organizations to manage participation and coordinate goals Communication context centers on collective action frames Organizational management of social networks – more emphasis on interpersonal networks to build relationships for collective action Organizations in the foreground Organizationally enabled networks Loose organizational coordination of action Organizations provide social technology outlays Communication content centers on organizationally generated inclusive personal action frames Some organizational moderation of personal expression through social networks Organizations in the background, loosely linked networksSelf organizing networks Little or no organizational coordination of action Large scale personal access to multi-layered social technologies Communication content centers on emergent inclusive personal action frames Personal expression shared over social networks Collectivities often shun formal organizations
  • In Azerbaijan, these are individuals that are outside of the formal opposition party system.Strong personalities, built reputation on personal identity.Reputation built primarily and certainly solidified online.Strategic use of social media for both domestic and foreign audiences. Have the strongest social media influence of anyone in Azerbaijan.Some openly critique the opposition parties. Some ignore the opposition parties.A generational difference, but not huge.Emin, Khadija, Habib, Baxtiyar, MehmanIn Azerbaijan, these are loose organizations and sometimes individuals (often representing these loose organizations) that fit into the second kind of connective action type where is there a closer link with an organization. This type does not have the same social media influence as the previous type. While still having large numbers of followers and friends, perhaps because information also spreads through organizational channels, or possibly because of the sense of needing to represent the organization, these individuals are not as important to the overall network.There are also traditional opposition party organizations that use social media to some degree. The best known individuals do have a lot of followers/friends/likes, but there is such infrequent interactivity and the statements made are so guarded that these individuals have little influence.
  • The opposition leaders have a social media presence, but it isn’t very interactive and is very formal. They seldom share material from others and stick to the party line.941,554 Azerbaijani adults on Facebook
  • And these network forms are part of what is so threatening to the governmentNot only do they have a large audience, but the efficiency at which they share information and collectively organize is amazing, thus this threatening to the governmentSo let’s look at some examples of what the opposition is doing
  • I’m not going to bog anyone down with this, but needless to say it has been a very busy year in Azerbaijan leading up to the October election
  • Let’s start with the independent networks – this is the most interesting, I think.
  • NerminRehimli, one of the organisers of the campaign, the sum of 10,500 manats needed to cover all the fines was collected within five days.“The amount of money raised in such a short period of time and the demonstration of support by a wide variety of Azerbaijanis was significant,” Pearce said. “More than 2,000 people donated during the campaign, the majority of them Facebook and Twitter users. The purpose of the campaign was to continue the solidarity demonstrated at the January 12 protest action over conscript deaths.”In what looked like a response to the “five qepik” campaign, the government amended the civil offence code in early February to stipulate fines of 250 to 500 manats for anyone who donates money to political parties, civil society groups and international non-governmental organisations. The fines are higher for state employees, and there are separate penalties for organisations that accept the money.$13k US
  • How much money raised?
  • the Azerbaijani government monitors its citizens’ use of social media. Azerbaijanis believe that their government is watching ‘‘everyone’’ on social media. In addition, there is evidence for this: users have had their Facebook accounts as well as Yahoo! and Gmail e-mail accounts compromised. This causes self-censorship amongst those that do use social media while discouraging those too fearful to engage.
  • EminMilli and Adnan HajizadaBakhtiyarHajiyev Khadija IsmayilDirect actionThird, the government arrests online activists. In early September 2009, Adnan Hajizada and EminMilli,two young Baku foreign-educated elites, employees of international organizations and youth activists,produced a YouTube video163 parodying the government for spending hundreds of thousands of dollarsto import donkeys from Germany. In the video, a group of solemn journalists interview a donkey(Hajizada in costume) and note that this donkey would be afforded more civil liberties than Azerbaijanicitizens, ‘‘There will be someone to protect donkey rights,’’ the video concludes, ‘‘but what of humanrights?’’ Two weeks later, Hajizada and Milli were having dinner with friends when they were attacked bytwo unknown men. They went to the police, assuming that the incident would be investigated. Instead,they were arrested for “hooliganism” and sentenced to 30 and 24 months imprisonment, respectively, onNovember 11, 2009. Appeals by human rights groups and foreign governments in late 2009 and throughmost of 2010 were denied. After intense international pressure, the two were released in November2010.Also, on the very day the “Arab Spring” began in late January 2011, state officials arrested formerparliamentary candidate and online activist BaxtiyarHajiyev, who remains in jail at the time of writing.Two other online youth activists, JabbarSalavan and DeyanatBabayev, were arrested in February andMarch 2011, respectively. Salavan was released on 26 December 2011 and Babayev confirmed to theauthor in December 2011 that he was released although there was no press coverage164.While the earlier cases had no mainstream media coverage, the 2011 cases have, which furtherdemonizes social media to the Azerbaijani public.On 4 March 2011, Hajiyev was questioned by police about Facebook activity related to an upcoming anti-government protest, scheduled for 11 March.[4] Later in the day, he was arrested on charges of having disobeyed a police order not to leave the city of Ganja while charges that he had evaded military service were being investigated.[4] On 7 March, Hajiyev passed his lawyer, ElchinNamazov, a letter stating that he had been beaten, tortured, and threatened with sexual abuse while in custody.[5] When Namazov visited Hajiyev on 7 May, the lawyer saw "an open wound on Hajiyev's neck, bruises on his eyes, and a hematoma on the left side of his nose".[3]Namazov filed a complaint with Ganja's prosecutor's office, but authorities reportedly failed to investigate Hajivev's claims of abuse.[3]On 18 May, the Nizami District Court of Ganja sentenced Hajiyev to two years' imprisonment.[3] The Supreme Court of Azerbaijan upheld the sentence on 6 December 2011.[6] A government official reported to the court that Hajiyev had been given a negative assessment by prison staff, indicating that he was unrepentant.[7]Hajiyev was released early by the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan for good behavior on 4 June 2012.[8] The announcement came days before a visit by U.S. Secretary of StateHillary Clinton.[9]
  • Attention to these names…
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