Social media are used as platforms for free expression and activism. Facebook is the leading social network by a wide margin. It is used by a generalised audience both urban and rural, of younger and older people with political and apolitical views; there were more than 3 million registered users in 2017. Instagram is also quite popular with a slightly smaller usage. In this sense, Twitter is the least popular social network and is mainly used by an urban and younger population, especially among politicians and prominent activists.
As the country does not have independent traditional media, everything is discussed on social media, especially Facebook. People use it as an information portal, as a platform of discussion, as a place of planning actions and as a place for promotion of their work and plans. That is virtually the only way society can express itself and the only way the public opinion can be felt. It is not a coincidence that, whatever positive steps the government of Azerbaijan has been forced to make, it was under the pressure of social media (eg Mehman Huseynov’s case, where specific minority/discriminated groups have been able to gain greater attention through social media). Social media is becoming a voice for whoever wants to be heard. The perfect example is the LGBT community, which is the most discriminated minority in Azerbaijan. Thanks to the rise of social media it has been able to draw more attention to the problems of LGBT people in the country and gather some momentum against homophobia.
Various organisations in Azerbaijan (government, business, state, etc), have become active users of social networks which in turn, has led to the transition of social networks, especially Facebook, as news production and news mediating entities. Along with an increasing number of users, social media is having a huge impact on the information flow.
It is worthy to note that sometimes overt threats come to independent outlets’ digital security. The Facebook pages of Kanal13 and Meydan TV, which, respectively, had 200,000 and 500,000 followers, were hacked in January 2019. Meydan TV lost 100,000 users and saw its entire post history deleted in the cyberattack. The episodes marked a new front in the war on media by Azerbaijani authorities.