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Quick Take - Shadow War 20201008. Wikimedia.

Snapshot of a shadow war

By Elise Thomas and Albert Zhang

The rapid escalation in the long-running conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia which took place in late September 2020 has been shadowed by a battle across social media for control of the international narrative about the conflict. On Twitter, large numbers of accounts supporting both sides have been wading in on politicised hashtags linked to the conflict. Our findings indicate large-scale coordinated activity. While much of this behaviour is likely to be authentic, our analysis has also found a significant amount of suspicious and potentially inauthentic behaviour.

The goal of this research piece is to observe and document some of the early dynamics of the information battle playing out in parallel to the conflict on the ground and create a basis for further, more comprehensive research. This report is in no way intended to undermine the legitimacy of authentic social media conversations and debate taking place on all sides of the conflict.