Armenia’s human rights ombudsman, Arman Tatoyan, expressed serious concern on Monday about growing hate speech on social media, saying that it has reached alarming proportions in the country.
“All over the world intolerance on social media is considered a serious challenge to freedom of speech,” said Tatoyan. “One of the worrying problems of 2019 was the spread of insults, hatred and degrading speech.”
“This vicious phenomenon has reached inadmissible proportions on social media. Particularly serious is aggression that is spread by fake users and groups,” he added in in an annual report on his office’s activities and human rights practices in Armenia presented to the parliament.
Tatoyan urged Armenians to avoid online debates featuring insults, threats or hateful statements.
Such content posted by local users on Facebook, other social media platforms as well as comments sections of online media outlets has become widespread in recent years. Supporters and opponents of the Armenian government routinely use abusive language to attack and even threaten each other or politicians from the opposite camp.
Pro-government and opposition politicians regularly accuse each other of running troll factories to bully and discredit political rivals. They both deny doing that.
In January this year, a member of Yerevan’s municipal council representing the ruling My Step bloc caused outrage after urging fellow government supporters to attack Constitutional Court Chairman Hrayr Tovmasian’s daughter on Facebook. My Step forced him to resign.
In March, Armenian parliament passed legislation criminalizing public calls for violence or attempts to justify it.