First Information War
From the outset, the confrontation in Karabakh has included an information component. Both sides have resorted to different methods of propaganda. At first, it was carried spontaneously and instintively. Later on, after the war, in the Internet’s development period, partisan groups of cyber-activists began to spring up and develop, waging noble wars within the boundlessness of forums.
What the development of technologies and strengthening role of the state have resulted in is that now both parties have more refined structures to work with in connection to information security, propaganda and counter-propaganda; different approaches to the information wars have been outlined in the past two-three years.
Azerbaijan has gone the length of building a vertical power structure; the partisan groups have gradually abandoned the arena and the media channels in the country have become almost fully controlled. As a result, a clearly controlled and rapidly acting model has been built that is more soviet structure-oriented. In the meantime, Armenia has started building a hybrid model that suggests integration of public and free groups into a uniform network, acting in a distributing capacity.
The beginning of the hostilities has shown us how both models work. The Azerbaijani vertical model made a misstep right in the very beginning. An Azerbaijani troops’ operation, which included a blitzkrieg and swarming of troops deep into the Karabakh defence on the night of on April 2, failed. According to the Karabakh authorities, by the morning, the Armenian military had already commenced its counter-attack, bringing serious losses to the enemy’s manpower and military hardware.
There was a sharp deceleration in the information sphere-the Azeri press did not report anything before noon, and that was amidst numerous reports on the outbreak of hostilities was being reported everywhere. Apparently, it was the clear vertical model that prevented the press from somehow covering the situation, whereas the military did not know how to describe what went wrong in the initial plans.
However, by the end of the day, the two sides entered the mainstream and a real information war on all fronts unfolded. In fact, both sides are using all available information means. There are cyber-attacks on both sides. Armenian and Azerbaijani news and official websites are under constant pressure because of DDoS attacks (the Turkish hacker group has been assisting the Azerbaijani side in this regard).
Propaganda materials have been slung in via printed media. Let’s take for instance, the publication of an purported letter of the NKR Defence Minister to his Armenian colleague, allegedly intercepted by an intelligence agency. The letter was written with terrible, childish mistakes. But it may come quite in handy for internal use.
Perhaps the most active war is underway on social networks, since nearly each and every one has been used. Here everyone is on their own playing field and is able to make the most of their abilities and spare time. The most cunning (who are probably working for the security services) are trying to gain other users’ confidence with Armenian names and find out about the situation on the frontline, in Yerevan and Stepanakert: is there any panic, where are the troops dispatched, etc. or do they create panic when referring to their acquaintances on line, who have seen with their own eyes that the game is up.
Others argue with each other in the comments below the articles. Some spread the articles themselves and pass them on to their friends in other countries. But the most widespread mass are those who use vulgar language. They swear as much as they can, in any language they know, and even if they don’t know it, they use Google Translate and swear anyway.
The use of the information realm has been a consistent component of the Karabakh conflict in recent years. However, recent military actions have brought the confrontation onto a new level, turning it into a real information war that has a serious impact on developments at the front, as well. Involvement of both communities in the information war on such a scale is really something new. And it will yield its fruit in the future, as well.
Politicians will have to take into account the fact that they have virtually dragged all their communities into an active information war. As for ordinary people, it is more difficult to send them back like soldiers to the barracks.after a stand-down.
The opinions expressed in the article, convey the author’s views and terminology and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial staff.