YEREVAN, DECEMBER 13, ARMENPRESS. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan wrote an article titled “Social media must be harnessed to hinder – rather than facilitate – ethnic cleansing” published in The Telegraph.
Below is the full article:
“When last year Rohingya Muslims sued Facebook, genocidal hate speech and inflammatory posts that social media algorithms can amplify came to the attention of the international community. Even as cyber-bullying and disinformation remain critical problems in societies, new technologies and platforms are exploited by terrorist and militia groups to broadcast propaganda and recruit supporters. The role and impact of new technologies on the potential genocides and ethnic cleansings in a volatile world is being discussed at a global forum in Yerevan, hosted by the Republic of Armenia. The forum, the fourth since 2015 and organized with the support of the Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, is addressing the growing challenges and opportunities of using new technologies to prevent genocide.
Despite facing enormous security challenges and aggressive territorial incursions by neighbouring Azerbaijan — which now occupies around 140 square kilometres of sovereign Armenian territory — Armenia is committed to bringing together governments, technology companies, academia and civil society to reduce the risks and harm technology can cause to vulnerable groups and societies.
As a nation that survived the first genocide of the twentieth century, Armenia carries immense moral responsibility to contribute to the international efforts to prevent future crimes against humanity. In the UN Human Rights Council, Armenia has sponsored five “Genocide Prevention” resolutions which were adopted by consensus.
In those resolutions particular attention is paid to education and awareness raising as pillars of prevention. The resolution of 2022 highlights the danger of new technologies, in particular social media platforms, being used to spread misinformation during ethnic cleansings.
Since the time of the genocide of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire to the recent tragic case of the Yazidis in Iraq, the methods and, therefore, the effective ways of combating them have changed and are continuing to change. Nevertheless, the latest technologies have always been “effectively” used in dehumanizing and abetting genocidal crimes. During the Armenian genocide, the Young Turks used telegrams to quickly communicate encoded orders for mass murders. During the Holocaust, IBM machines were used for rapid identification of the location of Jews. More recently, in Rwanda radio was the main channel for inciting hatred and dehumanizing the victims. Nowadays Twitter, Telegram and other social networks are used to disseminate hatred and even spread abhorrent images of committed crimes, which was the case with Azeri soldiers who committed war crimes after incursion into Armenia in September 2022.
Today, the rapid development of new technologies and the internet, where hate speech is increasingly popular and fast spreading, governments and societies are faced with the biggest challenges. Hate speech could snowball and turn into hate crime. And when hate speech and demonization of other groups are turned into state policies, they will lead to crimes against humanity and genocide.
On the other hand, we should not forget that the new technologies can at the same time become some of most powerful tools used in the fight against genocide as education and awareness raising are important pillars in the genocide prevention campaign.
These are only some of the topics being discussed during the 4th Global Forum in Yerevan in exploring how new technologies can be used to prevent, rather than facilitate, genocide.