Internet–based information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the information flows they support have played an important role in the advancement of society. In this paper we investigate the role of Internet–based ICTs in electoral revolutions. Employing a case study approach, we examine the part played by ICTs during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2000–2004). Roles and activities of the dissenters, as well as their associates, the incumbent authorities and their allies are analyzed with regard to Internet–based technologies during the electoral revolution in Ukraine. The case of the Orange Revolution is particularly salient, as even though only one to two percent of the Ukrainian population had access to the Internet, this was sufficient to mobilize the citizens towards an eventually successful revolution. This paper lays the groundwork for further investigations into use of ICTs by political dissenters.
General overview of the Orange Revolution
Internet–based ICTs and the Orange Revolution
Implications and discussion
General overview of the Orange Revolution
Internet–based ICTs and the Orange Revolution
Implications and discussion
Recent events have drawn attention to the use of Internet–based information and communication technologies (ICTs)  in the political process, where they played an important role during attempts at electoral revolutions in Moldova in April 2009 and Iran in June 2009. The most vivid example to date has been the Ukrainian Orange Revolution. The success of the Orange Revolution was due to the use of ICTs not just during November and December 2004, the most active part of the second phase of the Orange Revolution, but as early as September 2000, when ICTs were first actively utilized in Ukraine’s political processes. The case of the Orange Revolution is relevant to non–democratic countries because it is one of the few globally important events that took place after the development and diffusion of Internet–based ICTs had achieved a level of magnitude which allowed them to play a significant role in world affairs.
Electoral (“color”) revolutions could be an effective method of peaceful transition to democracy. These revolutions are mass political protest events in non–democratic countries, usually linked to presidential or parliamentary elections where people strive to peacefully change the often autocratic or dictatorial incumbent regime into a more democratic one. Studying and deriving relevant patterns from color revolutions could be of great practical use worldwide. In particular, it could be useful to study processes, related to the use of ICTs, which played decisive roles in the success of the Orange Revolution. In doing so, we may learn relevant lessons and use them to build a general framework for the effective use of ICTs during electoral revolutions.
In this paper we explore how information flows facilitated by the Internet played a critical role in the outcome of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. We corroborate this through a secondary case study research approach. We propose a theoretical framework describing the above processes. The 2009 examples of attempts at electoral revolutions in Moldova and Iran, through which we were able to observe how modern ICTs play an increasingly important role in pro–democratic revolutionary events in non–democratic states, give us confidence that this research topic will become more significant over time. In these instances relatively new Web services like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were actively used to organize and share information about street protests. The changing and intensifying nature of technology leads us to predict that its future role in democratic development worldwide will become even more significant.
The paper is organized as follows: first, we conduct a short review of the literature relevant to the use of Internet–based technologies in political processes. Then we provide a general overview of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Next, we present our research approach. Following this, we narrate a comprehensive secondary case study of Internet use during the Orange Revolution and classify our main findings according to relevant categories. Finally, we critically analyze the findings and suggest related implications for the subsequent development of a general framework — a middle–range typological theory (George and Bennett, 2005) — for the effective use of Internet–based ICTs during democratic dissenters’ struggles against authoritarian regimes.
Today, with the wide use of ICTs, political campaigns have already transformed into “hypermedia campaigns” (Howard, 2006). For example, Castells conducted a case study  of Obama’s 2008 Presidential primary campaign. Castells (2009) discussed “the role of the new relationship between communication and insurgent politics established by the Obama campaign, the first campaign in which the political uses of the Internet played a decisive role.”  He notes the skillful use of the Internet for fundraising — Obama was able to raise unprecedented amounts of money to support his campaign, and 60 to 90 percent of donations came through the Internet (compared to an average of only six percent of Americans who donate online). Castells (2009) believes that the key to the success of the campaign was the Obama team’s ability to use the possibilities of the Internet, specifically social networking Web sites, to support and further stimulate the classic American model of grassroots community organization and mobilization. Thus, they were able to involve in the process large numbers of new political actors, especially from the youth (“Generation Obama”). Such active involvement of previously passive or marginalized masses of the population in a political campaign is one of the key features of successful insurgent politics.
Consider another recent case, Iran. In the most current example of an attempt at a color (“Green”) revolution, we find more evidence of the increasing role ICTs play in pro–democratic revolutionary events in authoritarian states. Web services like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube were actively used in Iran to organize, attract support, and share information about street protests after the June 2009 presidential elections (Gross, 2009b). Despite the Iranian regime’s efforts to block Internet access, especially the streaming of photos and videos of the violence surrounding the protests, tech–savvy Iranians repeatedly found ways to bypass official restrictions using proxy sites that rerouted messages to Twitter. Iranian Twitterers also waged an online war against the regime by promoting sites that overloaded the Web sites of prominent regime figures and other pro–government sites (Gross, 2009a).
Internet–based services such as Facebook and Twitter also played a significant role in the events in Moldova in April 2009. These protests started the day after rigged parliamentary elections, when organizers from two youth oppositional movements called their supporters to participate in protests. One of those organizers described the effort on her blog as “six people, 10 minutes for brainstorming and decision–making, several hours of disseminating information through networks, Facebook, blogs, SMSs and e–mails.” (Barry, 2009) As a result, a crowd of about 15,000 people gathered within just a few hours to protest in the capital’s main square.
In these two recent cases of citizens’ mobilization in Iran and Moldova, we see the network effect, which further promotes Internet–based ICTs’ use for political action. As more people adopt Internet–based social tools and as those tools allow increasingly rapid communication, the speed of group action also increases. Just asmore is different, faster is different, too (Shirky, 2008). The Ukrainian incumbent authorities before the Orange Revolution underestimated the role of the Internet–based press and other information resources (Kyj, 2006). The case of the Ukrainian Orange Revolution is an ideal study from which to draw both theoretical and practical lessons on how to successfully use technologies for major social change.
Even an Internet penetration rate as low as one to two percent can be very important for breaking information blockades in non–democratic countries. Goldstein (2007) explained the important role that the Internet played during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, despite its relatively low penetration, through the lens of two–step flow theory (Katz and Lazarsfeld, 2005). This theory describes how information reaches wider masses of a population through an intermediary “step” made of various opinion–makers who have Internet access. This is empirically supported by the results obtained by Kulikova (2008).
ICTs have the potential to play a more active role in the processes of democratization worldwide, particularly during electoral revolutions. However, except for some preliminary work by McLaughlin (2003), there is still no cohesive theoretical framework outlining the effective use of these tools for successful electoral revolutions by democratic dissenters under non–democratic regimes. At the same time, we have numerous separate descriptions of the Internet’s political use during the Orange Revolution (Bandera, 2006; Kyj, 2006; Goldstein, 2007). Together these provide sufficient data that we combined using triangulation. After ensuring their reliability and validity, we derived patterns which can serve as a basis for the elaboration of such a framework. Later in this paper we create a unified comprehensive case study of Internet–based ICT use in the Orange Revolution, based on the previously mentioned individual descriptions, and derive from it relevant findings and implications.
The Orange Revolution was the culmination of the 2004 October–November Presidential elections in Ukraine. The main candidates were Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko. Yanukovych, who had been the Ukrainian prime minister since 2002, was backed by the incumbent Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, as well as by Russia and its then–president Vladimir Putin (Bilaniuk, 2005; Karatnycky, 2005). Yushchenko, leader of the “Our Ukraine” oppositional faction in the Ukrainian parliament and a former Prime Minister (1999–2001), was considered a more pro–Western politician.
The first round of the 2004 presidential elections in Ukraine was held on 31 October 2004. It resulted in a small lead for Yushchenko, with 39.87 percent of the votes compared to Yanukovych’s 39.32 percent. Since neither candidate got a 50 percent majority, the second round of the election was scheduled for 21 November, after which the Central Election Commission proclaimed Yanukovych the winner, with 49.42 percent of the votes compared to Yushchenko’s 46.69 percent. The pro–Yushchenko forces and a majority of international observers claimed that the elections were falsified. Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) announced that the election did not meet international standards (OSCE, 2004), and U.S. Senator Richard Lugar, who acted as the senior election observer, even called it “a concerted and forceful program of election day fraud.” (Kuzio, 2004) This fraud caused widespread acts of civil disobedience through the whole country (the period of time usually considered “the” Orange Revolution), and eventually the Supreme Court of Ukraine scheduled a repeat vote on 26 December 2004. Yushchenko won with almost 52 percent, compared to Yanukovych’s 44 percent (all the above vote–related numbers are available at the Web site of Ukrainian Central Election Commission athttp://www.cvk.gov.ua). Yanukovych refused to accept this result, but on 10 January 2005, the Supreme Court declared Yushchenko the winner (Ligostova, 2005).
In our case study we followed the research approach outlined by Eisenhardt (1989), Pentland (1999), Yin (2009), Gerring (2007), and George and Bennett (2005). Our research steps were to:
- Compose a logically sound narration of the case, paying particular attention to the cyber activities carried out and the ICTs used at that time;
- Extract from this narrative some initial ideas about the role of ICTs in the Orange Revolution events and processes (see Appendix for some details);
- Derive related patterns for use during the creation of our initial theoretical framework;
- Synthesize that framework based on those patterns; and,
- Distinguish possible areas which need further investigation through additional case studies (a subject of our future research).
The analytical techniques suggested by case study methodology experts for employment during theory–building closely resemble those used under the grounded theory approach (Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1987), in which “theory is grounded in descriptive categories and relationships that emerge from properly collected and coded data, where the use of theoretical preconceptions or prior theory is minimized so as not to force the emergence of a theory.” 
In the course of our case analysis we group data into topical categories (such as Internet penetration rates, authorities’ attitude towards the Internet, legal control of the Internet, dissenters’ use of the Internet, youth and the Internet, political humor online, etc.). From these categories we determine the main stakeholders of the political cyberprotest (dissenters, authorities, citizens, etc.), the main Internet–based tools used, and the main tactics and strategies those stakeholders undertook utilizing those tools. Combining these latter data allows us to build the initial version of our theoretical framework.
By following this research approach, an interpretation of particular chronological sequences of the case’s evolution allows us to postulate contingent causal relationships between some important indicators and parameters of cyberprotest development. For example, we observe how some dissenters’ tactics and strategies of cyberprotest, including the use of certain features of Internet–based ICTs, developed over time from the first active phase (the “Kuchmagate” events of 2000) to the second (Presidential elections of 2004). We can assume that these strategies were connected with increases in the Internet penetration rate and changes in the organizational forms of the dissenters, who chose to adhere to the more robust mirrored networked organization where ensuring constant connectivity plays one of the critical roles in the movement’s success. Accordingly, it is possible to analyze the development of these phenomena using the above–mentioned analytical approach. This allows us to better understand the roles and weights of various time–dependent parameters in the complex process of political cyberprotest, and to properly account for them in our theoretical framework.
In our case study we conducted extensive secondary research by drawing on information sources devoted to ICTs’ role in the socio–political development of Ukraine during its independence (especially around the time of the Orange Revolution), in Ukrainian, Russian and English. Thus, we were able to review and synthesize practically all known to us important sources of information on the topic.
Our findings were based on the process of extracting findings from a narrative (Pentland, 1999). We used the case of the Orange Revolution as depicted in various sources, mostly papers from peer–reviewed journals, both those specifically targeting the role of the Internet (Bandera, 2006; Kyj, 2006; Goldstein, 2007), and general descriptions (Slaboshpytskyi, 2005; Kolesnikov, 2005; Borovyk, 2006). All of these works are descriptive, and some of them are also explanatory in the sense of Dube and Pare , but none of them is exploratory; that is, none of them are ‘proposing new constructs and/or building new theories.’ Our task, on the contrary, was to derive related patterns which could subsequently be used in the creation of a theoretical framework.
Among the main primary information resources used, we studied the Web sites of:
- The main candidates during the 2004 Ukrainian presidential elections:
— Viktor Yushchenko: http://www.razom.org.ua/;
— Viktor Yanukovych: http://www.ya2008.com.ua/;
- The President of Ukraine: http://www.president.gov.ua;
- The Ukrainian Government: http://www.kmu.gov.ua;
- The Ukrainian Parliament: http://rada.gov.ua/;
- The Central Election Commission of Ukraine: http://www.cvk.gov.ua;
- The independent Ukrainian online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda:http://www.pravda.com.ua;
- The Ukrainian TV channel “Channel 5”: http://5.ua/;
- The Ukrainian news agency UNIAN: http://www.unian.net/;
- The Internet hub for a citizens’ action network in Ukraine:http://www.maidanua.org.
Since we drew from different, often politically opposite information sources, we had enough data to grasp the essence of the events of interest to us, achieved saturation and triangulation of the data, and ensured the data’s reliability and validity (Flyvbjerg, 2006). If we encountered any issues in which we had inconsistent data (as it was with the Internet penetration rates) we provide all of them, allowing the reader to establish at least approximate numbers and values. Based on these data we were able to follow the dynamic development of the situations around the Orange Revolution, trace the role of Internet–based ICTs in that development, build a detailed timeline of the events, analyze it from an information science perspective, and come to conclusions which suggest importance of the role played by Internet–facilitated information flows in the political development of non–democratic countries (of course, there are also other important factors (see, e.g., Kuzio, 2005) which should be taken into account).
In our case narrative we provide a general picture of the political Internet in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution, paying special attention to the Ukrainian authorities’ attitude towards the Internet and to the characteristics of Ukrainian Internet users. We provide a description of the use of Internet–based ICTs during the “Kuchmagate” events of 2000–2001, which marked the first active phase of the Orange Revolution. We also examine the transition period of 2002–2003 between the two active phases of the Revolution. Subsequently we describe Internet use during the primary active phase of the Orange Revolution in 2004 and examine the most vivid sub–cases of Internet–based ICT use, such as Ukrainska Pravda, Maidan, and Pora, monitoring of the elections, information wars, online humor, etc.
Setting the stage
By the end of the 1990s, Ukraine had one of the best–developed civil societies of all post–U.S.S.R. states (Aslund and McFaul, 2006). Since the main Ukrainian traditional mass media were controlled either explicitly or implicitly by the regime, civic groups started using the Internet as an alternative channel for critical information. Multiple Internet–only daily newspaper appeared, first among them Ukrainska Pravda. Other Web sites, for example the Maidan site, represented the civic groups themselves. Because of restrictions on information in most traditional mass media, the Internet began to play an important role in the development of the political situation in Ukraine.
Ukrainian law never considered Internet–based information outlets to be formal mass media (Goldstein, 2007). So while journalists of the traditional mass media often had to deal with lawsuits, often under utterly hollow pretexts but in full accordance with current legislation, the journalists of Ukrainian online mass media were not subject to such laws (Privacy International, 2003). This promoted the creation of the Internet–based public sphere in Ukraine.
Why did the Ukrainian authorities take a lenient attitude towards the Internet? Krasnoboka and Semetko  explain the authorities’ underestimation of the Internet’s political potential compared to traditional mass media, such as TV, because television was the main information source available for about 90 percent of the Ukrainian population. For this reason television was the medium most closely controlled by Kuchma’s regime. Moreover, since Internet penetration rates were only about 10 percent (Dyczok, 2006), the ruling circles underestimated its potential to influence individuals.
Ukrainian Internet users at the time of the Orange Revolution
Around the time of the Orange Revolution most Internet users in Ukraine were “students and professors of the universities, young employees of the international and big national enterprises, collaborators of the research institutions, journalists, politicians, governmental officials and the security service”  — i.e., representatives of both intellectual and political elites. This also may explain why, despite a relatively low percentage (not more than 15 percent of the population) of Internet users in Ukraine, the Internet became “influential sociopolitical force.”  There is no consensus about the percentage of Internet users in Ukraine: Prytula  estimates it at eight percent by the beginning of autumn 2004, while others provide different numbers (12 percent to 15 percent, Freedom House, July 2004). Regardless of the exact number, this percentage is relatively small in comparison to more technically developed countries. Nevertheless the provision of alternative information to even a relatively small number of activists seems to be, as we will show below, very important for the development of the Orange Revolution.
The “Kuchmagate” events
The political Internet in Ukraine manifested itself seriously for the first time in 2000, four years before its peak in 2004. In autumn 2000, the Kuchmagate events began with the infamous Gongadze case. According to the case study by the World Bank Institute (2002), in mid–April 2000 known Ukrainian independent political journalist Heorhiy Gongadze founded the purely online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda(http://www.pravda.com.ua) in Kyiv. Often its publications harshly criticized Ukrainian government officials, which displeased them (World Bank Institute, 2002). In mid–July 2000 Gongadze appealed to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, complaining about being surveilled by unknown persons. One evening in mid–September 2000, Gongadze vanished .
In about a week the Ukrainian parliament established a Temporary Commission to investigate the journalist’s disappearance. On 6 October 2000, the Ukrainian Interior Minister informed the parliament that Gongadze’s articles in Ukrainska Pravda could be connected with his disappearance (World Bank Institute, 2002). At the beginning of November 2000, a headless body was uncovered not far from Kyiv. Soon the officials developed serious concerns that the corpse could be Gongadze’s . In mid–November 2000, some of Gongadze’s friends confirmed that the identity of the body as Gongadze. Finally, on 28 November 2000, one of the opposition leaders, Oleksandr Moroz, presented to the Parliament audio files, secretly recorded in Kuchma’s office, which suggested the President’s involvement in Gongadze’s disappearance. These files also immediately became available online (Krasnoboka and Semetko, 2006).
During these events, Ukrainska Pravda covered the story. While in early September 2000 the political Internet in Ukraine was not very popular, by December 2000 it had become so: as Prytula recalled in an interview to Vasyl (2000), at the beginning of September 2000 the Ukrainska Pravda Web site had about 3,000 visitors daily; on the day before the interview they had about 80,000 visitors. Similarly, Krasnoboka and Semetko  noticed that
|“… as the [Gongadze] crisis developed, the Ukrainian Internet experienced a tremendous increase in the number of visitors to political Web sites and forums. On 7 December 2000, Gongadze’s online paper [Ukrainska Pravda] registered its first million visitors, this in a country in which officially less than one percent of the population — which would come to about 400,000 people — had access to the Internet at that time.”|
In agreement with Prytula (2006), we can say that although the Kuchmagate events of 2000–2001 were seemingly unsuccessful for the opposition, they can be considered the first active phase of the Orange Revolution. This marks the first time that Internet–based information played an important role in Ukrainian politics. Despite a temporary political retreat by the opposition, the events of autumn 2000 to spring 2001 were objectively progressive for Ukrainian Internet use. Early in 2002 Taras Kuzio (2002) noted:
|“Internet use in Ukraine has increased fivefold since 1999. From 2000 to 2001, it jumped by 30 to 40 percent. In recent years, computer prices have dropped, since 85 percent of all computers sold in Ukraine are now assembled domestically. In 2001, 400,000 personal computers were sold (an annual increase of 22–25 percent) plus 10,000 computer notebooks (an annual increase of 60 percent). Due to increased competition among Ukraine’s 260 Internet service providers … the cost of Internet connection has dropped dramatically.”|
McFaul (2006) describes the media situation in Ukraine and compares it with the previous successful “color” revolutions in Serbia in 2000 and Georgia in 2003:
|“In contrast to Serbia and especially Georgia, Ukraine’s democratic opposition had access to fewer traditional sources of independent media. By 2004, in Ukraine all the major TV channels were owned or controlled by oligarchs loyal to Kuchma and Yanukovych. Some important print newspapers provided independent sources of news, but all had limited circulations. Compared with Serbia and Georgia, however, Ukraine’s opposition had one advantage: the Internet. Coming just a little bit later than the other two revolutions and in a country a little bit richer and therefore with a little more connectivity, the Orange Revolution benefited tremendously from the Web. In fact, the Orange Revolution may have been the first in world history organized in large measure on the Web.” |
Similarly, Kuzio  noted that:
|“The Internet provided an alternative to state and private television stations, which were hostile to the opposition. Sixty-eight percent of Ukrainians believed there was political censorship in Ukraine, particularly on television, which was trusted by only 21 percent of the people.”|
The Internet in the Orange Revolution in September–December 2004
Semetko and Krasnoboka  note that “assumptions based on the political role of the Internet in established democracies do not always hold for societies in transition.” In countries like Ukraine,
|“… Citizens turn to the online sources to obtain more information than is available in off–line media, as well as uncensored or, as some political observers say, less censored, information about political developments in these societies. From this perspective, the Internet may be seen as a vehicle for fuelling political protest (see also Beissinger, 1998; 2002). Online–only media therefore appear to have more credibility as a source of information for Internet users in these societies in transition than off–line media online. This is in contrast to established democracies, such as the U.S. or the U.K., for example, where hits on Web sites of online versions of off–line media are far more common than hits on online–only media. This difference is a reflection of the political constraints under which journalists in these societies are working.” |
It seems that the Internet in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution satisfied the above prediction about its potential role as one of vehicles for fuelling political protest. For example, Prytula  notes that:
|“During the revolution, the Internet helped to organize rallies. With the strict censorship of television, the Internet was the only medium through which one could find answers to basic questions: What is the date and location of the next meeting? What are the plans of the opposition? What is happening in the street? Sometimes events unfolded so rapidly that only Internet media provided people with up–to–date information.”|
By 2004, the only Ukrainian TV station not under the authorities’ control was the second–tier Channel 5 (Prytula, 2006). Though it had limited geographical coverage through the traditional means of TV broadcasting and the authorities tried in every way possible to prevent that coverage from growing, they were unable to stop Channel 5’s broadcasting over the Internet from its Web site — http://5.ua. “[T]hrough its Web portal, Channel 5 played a crucial role in providing continuous real–time reporting from Independence Square”  during the most active 17–day phase of the Orange Revolution. Its Web site experienced very high traffic at that point: during autumn 2004 its popularity increased twentyfold, from 400,000 to eight million hits .
But there were obstacles. In mid–October 2004, access to Channel 5’s Web site was blocked both in Moscow and by the then–main Ukrainian ISP Ukrtelecom : “a network of servers was used” to block access to 5.ua, just as when the Web sitehttp://yanukovich.nm.ru, featuring jokes about Yanukovych, had been blocked . Subsequently, the Yanukovych joke Web site provided a list of “anonymizing” servers for the users to bypass such blockades (Bandera, 2006). This technique was also used by a number of independent and oppositional Ukrainian online news agencies “to prevent the filtering of their content” (Prytula, 2006). During the campaign, some ISPs in the big cities offered free dial–up access to the main oppositional information outlets. This was particularly valuable since, according to even a 2005 poll, about 70 percent of Internet users in Ukraine still used dial–up Internet connections (Bandera, 2006). McFaul  adds that during the Orange Revolution “text messaging was also an essential coordinating device for those in Maidan and in the tent city, who did not have access to e–mail.”
The Pora movement
Text messaging was used extensively by one of the oppositional youth organizations, Pora (formally, it had two organizationally independent wings — “Yellow” and “Black,” without any major political discrepancies between them). Most participants in the Orange Revolution were in their thirties or younger (Goldstein, 2007). Literature suggests that they should be advanced users of the Internet (see Shah and Abraham, 2009). Accordingly, the Internet, so popular among younger generations, became an important tool during the Revolution.
Demes and Forbrig (2006) describe Pora and its general informational strategy as follows:
|“The civic campaign of Pora, … inaugurated in March 2004, … quickly grew into the largest country–wide network of NGOs, activities, and volunteers. … The basic idea behind Pora’s campaign was that the absence of independent media was far–reaching and greatly assisted the incumbent regime in manipulating the public in the electoral process. Alternative mass media and sources of information were needed to guarantee free and fair elections and to give the Ukrainian public more accurate information about the electoral process, … and possible state manipulation of the election. Alternative sources of information would be instrumental in mobilizing public protest against election fraud. Various communication tools ensured that this structure could function as a coherent campaign.” |
Kaskiv, et al. , authors of the Pora case study, wrote that “the Web site of the campaign was established at http://www.pora.org.ua and served not only as a source of information but also as a practical tool for coordination among regional departments. … A system of immediate dissemination of information by SMS was also put in place and proved to be important.” Around the time of the Orange Revolution, users of SIM cards that Pora had bought from a particular cell phone provider were given free calls and text messaging within the network; during the Revolution, that provider also built 24 additional cell phone signal relay stations, thus greatly contributing to the protestors’ connectivity, while its vice–president even personally joined the protests .
According to Goldstein , Pora’s Web site served both as “a source to inform the public and as a forum for activists to communicate. The organization and activities of Pora represent the clearest link between the small percentage of Ukrainian elite who were online and the general public.” Taras Kuzio  notes one more important feature of Pora’s communication strategy: “Black Pora discussed tactics and strategy on a server located outside Ukraine that required coded access. This was to prevent infiltration by the security service.”
During the critical period of the Orange Revolution, the e–mail addresses of those subscribed to Pora’s e–mail list were used for the mobilization of its supporters. About 10,000 e–mail addresses were thus harvested, and immediately after the second round of elections these addresses were used to send out mobilization information to as many people as possible, and as soon as possible, urging Pora’s members and supporters to join the tent city .
More mature, self–organizing protestors (the Maidan Web site)
The Maidan site (http://maidanua.org) was set up on 20 December 2000, during the protests connected with the Gongadze case . It was the first time Ukrainian dissenters “began collecting and exchanging information using the Internet.”  The anonymity ensured by the site’s virtual nature and the mirror servers securely located overseas guaranteed Maidan’s continuous activity and popularity during the several following years until the culmination of the Orange Revolution.
Kyj  provides further description of the Maidan site. In particular, the news section was usually filled with reports by activists, rather than by professional journalists. This opened the possibility of posting unsubstantiated reports, as when reports about Russian special troops landing secretly in Ukraine in order to suppress the Revolution were posted. Thus, this type of site, with less organizational control than Pora’s, could be used by hostile secret services to mislead or threaten site visitors (in this case, by spreading false rumors about Russian special forces who would ruthlessly suppress the protests). Bandera  writes that these rumors were actively maintained both on– and off–line: “the rumors gained credulity [sic] as they circulated via e–mail, Internet chat forums, by SMS and in hushed tones by expatriate journalists in local bars.” Despite this weakness, the posts on the site’s news section usually came from known and trusted activists, so their credibility stayed fairly high.
By November 2004, Maidan had tens of millions of hits per month . The site was among the first in the country to provide access to its content via WAP cell phone technology and free dial–up access. Its homepage also featured a “direct action line” urging its visitors to perform the immediate political actions necessary at that moment, based on real–time developments of situations. This allowed actions such as the 24/7 dispatch of activists to block groups of provocateurs during the Revolution. Additionally, Maidan’s site featured the important option of donating money to the Revolution via credit card, a feature that was especially convenient to Ukrainian diaspora (Goldstein, 2007).
During the Orange Revolution, the online newspaper Ukrainska Pravda made extensive use of the Internet’s ability to reflect real–time reaction to events. McFaul mentions that:
|“Ukrainska Pravda most certainly ranked as one of Ukraine’s essential outlets of news and analysis in the last years before the collapse of the Kuchma regime. By the end of the Orange Revolution, it was not only the most popular Internet site, but also the most widely read publication of any kind in Ukraine. During the critical hours and days after the second–round vote, Ukrainska Pravdadisplayed the results of the exit poll most sympathetic to Yushchenko as well as detailed news about allegations of fraud. The Web site also provided all sorts of practical information to protestors.”|
The newspaper’s editor–in–chief, Olena Prytula , wrote that “while the Orange Revolution spread from Kyiv to the regions, … the news feeds from the regions were vitally important.” Thousands of letters with fresh news flooded the mailbox ofUkrainska Pravda:
|“… every ten to fifteen minutes another tent city appeared in some town or other, and that fact was soon reported. … [This] news from the regions was read by opposition leaders on Maidan to millions of listeners in the streets throughout Ukraine.” |
Differences in the use of the Internet by pro–Yushchenko and pro–Yanukovych forces
The opposing political forces during the Orange Revolution used the Internet with unequal success. For example, Kyj  notes that the pro–Yanukovych sites “did not fully exploit the attributes of the Web,” while the explicitly pro–Yuschenko sites, like Maidan, Pora, and independent news sites, did: “Internet was a critical medium for the Yuschenko coalition in getting its message out to the public.”
Prytula  also confirms that “Yushchenko and his allies made active use of the Internet.” Their Web sites were reliable and stable sources of relevant information. Yanukovych had a site at http://www.ya2004.com.ua, but he “used it to support his own reputation rather than provide useful information. The news was updated irregularly.”  It is no surprise that Kyj  found very low activity on all pro–Yanukovych sites during the main phase of the Orange Revolution (autumn–December 2004). At the same time, he noticed very high activity on the pro–Yushchenko sites.
During the Orange Revolution, Internet–supported humor played an important role in the hands of the creative opposition (see Burwell and Boler (2008) regarding the phenomenon of online–supported political humor in general). Kuzio  mentions that this phenomenon started “in September 2004 after Yanukovych … was hit by an egg thrown by a student. He looked at the egg and then fell over, apparently in agony.” That was video–recorded and uploaded (first to the Channel 5’s Web site) to the Internet  that “began to ridicule the event: how could the large, tough–looking Yanukovych be knocked over by a small egg?”  According to Bandera, on 25 September Channel 5’s servers were overwhelmed by the huge number of requests for the accident’s original video. Following this, Ukrainska Pravda and uaportal.com uploaded the file to their servers to help disseminate it. Prior to the accident, Yanukovych’s ratings had been growing extremely quickly, but then slowed down immediately. After the incident, several Web sites were set up that featured the constantly growing number of related jokes in various digital forms, such as Flash cartoons .
One interesting piece of evidence of the important role anti–Yanukovych humor played during the Orange Revolution is the fact that during their short–term return to the Parliament majority in 2006, supporters of Yanukovych tried to wipe out humorous inscriptions about him left from the Orange Revolution on walls in the center of Kyiv (Korrespondent, 2006). Fortunately, their arms were too short to reach the Internet.
Internet use in the exit poll “wars”
In 2004 there was a real exit poll mania in Ukraine . The Kyiv–based Democratic Initiatives Foundation (DIF) sponsored the largest exit poll, presented athttp://exitpoll.org.ua. Other important exit polls were conducted by the government–controlled “Ukrainian Institute of Social Research”, the Russian FOM public opinion poll organization and the “Russian Club” headed by Gleb Pavlovsky , and Yanukovych’s own team. The Internet was used to violate the legal ban on the publication of exit–poll results before the closing of the polling stations, and could “guide” the results of other exit polls. The Russian FOM and the “Russian Club” in particular used the Internet to violate the publication ban explicitly outlined in Ukrainian laws:
|“By 3 p.m., the Internet was awash with news reports of exit poll results à la Pavlovsky that showed Yanukovych winning by more than three percent. … For the remaining part of Election Day, the FOM poll data was reported as news from Moscow on Web sites, forums and e–mails in Russia and Ukraine, in violation of the particularly specific and exact publication ban still in force in Ukraine.” |
In contrast, the exit poll conducted by DIF showed an obvious victory by Yushchenko in the second round election, which differed from Yanukovych’s victory as reported by the Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission . After polling stations were closed, Yushchenko’s campaign used the powerful informational and communication possibilities of the Internet to disseminate the DIF’s results globally. These exit poll results were also important in mobilizing the masses against the authorities’ election fraud (Bilaniuk, 2005).
The Internet as medium and tool for information and disinformation campaigns
Throughout the 2004 Ukrainian election campaign, several relevant English–language periodic reports were distributed via various e–mail–based subscription lists. One was the Action Ukraine Report :
|“Six months before the election, the Action Ukraine Report (AUR) was issued to 4,000 recipients. By the time of President Viktor Yushchenko’s inauguration, subscriptions had doubled to 8,000 e–mail recipients. The Report’s impact was far broader than that, however: subscribers would copy and paste the text–only messages and resend selected items to other addresses, creating an exponential impact. … Some of the 8,000 recipients of … English–language news summaries were forwarding the reports to people in Ukraine. This created a ripple, networking and multiplier effect to far larger numbers.”|
Another electronic list–based periodical devoted to Ukrainian issues that played a significant role during the Orange Revolution was the Ukraine List (UKL). It was created in 1998, and initially published on average an issue per week. During the critical times of the Orange Revolution in 2004, however, the UKL had up to three to four issues per day for 40 days in a row:
|“In addition to providing a selection of the best news items, then UKL transformed itself into a daily forum for exclusive contributions. … With the Orange Revolution, the UKL subscription base skyrocketed, not just in absolute figures, but also in the number of critical circles that it reached.”|
The AUR also conducted its own analyses and investigations. One was devoted to the infamous poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko with dioxin . It was established that an English–language summary of an article saying that Yushchenko “was not poisoned by his opponents to prevent him from taking part in the presidential elections. … [He] simply drank alcohol by mistake after stem cell therapy” was posted on the Internet by MosNews.com and thus became available worldwide . Further, according to Bandera , those rumors were republished in print-based newspapers, “citing the almighty Internet as the source.” This is a clear example of how the Internet–based ICTs can be employed for a sophisticated mis–information campaign. But because technology is fundamentally neutral, the Internet, through such outlets as AUR, was also skillfully used by the cyberdissenters to reveal mis–information and to conduct successful counter–information campaigns.
The Internet’s direct use during the elections
The Internet provides a convenient tool which can be used to either ensure an election’s fairness or to falsify it. For an example of the former, we can mention the “Znayu!” initiative (http://www.znayu.org.ua):
|“At the heart of the initiative was a technology solution that combined the Internet, call centers, mobile phones that all contributed to the compilation of an enormous database. This database proved to be the key to collecting, systematizing and presenting the scope and different types of violations of electoral law that occurred during the second round of voting on November 21.” |
But during the Orange Revolution, Internet–related technologies were also used by pro–Yanukovych forces to directly falsify the results of the elections: they used an illegally installed “transit server” when data were transferred electronically between polling stations, territorial elections commissions (TECs), and the central commission (CEC) in Kyiv . In December 2004, the hearings at the U.S. Congress House of Representatives’ International Relations Committee revealed  “the most egregious, widely observed and reported examples of election–day fraud on November 21.” One of those examples was  “Computer Data Allegedly Altered To Favor Yanukovych: There were credible reports showing that that [sic] Yanukovych supporters gained illegal access to the Central Election Commission’s computer system and illegally altered vote tabulation data being transmitted by TECs to the CEC.” According to Bandera , “the access codes to the CEC’s computer systems were seized the day before the vote by ‘unknown forces’. Halyna Mandrusova, director of the ProCom firm that was responsible for the computer systems, confirmed the fact that data coming into the CEC was manipulated ‘from the outside’.”
Based on the above case, and using the case study methodology outlined earlier (see also the Appendix), we were able to identify the main stakeholders of our system — a dynamic socio–technical system of electoral revolution in a (semi–)authoritarian country. There are five main system stakeholders: 1) dissenters; 2) authorities (the incumbent (semi–)authoritarian regime and its active domestic supporters); 3) the people; 4) foreign entities (including states, organizations and individuals) supporting the dissenters; and, 5) similar foreign entities, but supporting the authorities. The final outcome of this system of electoral revolution is the eventual distribution of votes. Next we consider in detail the main stakeholders’ functions in the system, connected with their use of the Internet–based ICTs.
In electoral revolutions, dissenters conduct three main functions based on their use of Internet–based ICTs and cellular networks: informing, organization/coordination, and monitoring; two additional supportive functions are Internet–based requests for Internet–facilitated financial support, and a technical support function that maintains access to Internet–based (and, if possible, cellular) oppositional ICTs, and defends them from (or repairs them after) physical or cyber attacks. Some of the functions may also have several related sub–functions. Both functions and sub–functions related to the “dissenters” stakeholder are presented in Table 1.
|Table 1: The Internet–based functions and their sub–functions related to the “dissenters” stakeholder.|
|Informational function||Supplying interested parties with alternative information which is not available through traditional, authority–controlled mass media.||To recruit supporters from both national and international populations and organizations, and to erode the positions of the authorities and their international allies.|
|Propaganda||To recruit supporters from both national and international populations and organizations.|
|Counter–propaganda||To recruit and retain supporters from both national and international populations and organizations, and to erode the positions of the authorities and their international allies.|
|Active targeted erosion of the authorities’ character by creative use of technical means,i.e., political satire.||To undermine positions of the authorities and their international allies, and to recruit supporters from both national and international populations and organizations.|
|Online distribution of print–ready materials with their subsequent transformation into paper–based formats, and thereby their nationwide distribution, particularly into places with lower Internet penetration rates.||Conducts and supports all the above four sub–functions, though usually not targeting foreign stakeholders.|
|Organizational (coordination) function||Use by dissenting organizations of Internet–based communication tools and cellular telephone networks to immediately and effectively connect with and inform oppositional activists.||Enhance the effectiveness of all oppositional activities, including the opposition’s ability to conduct its two other main Internet–supported functions (informing and monitoring), as well as the two Internet–based supportive functions (finances soliciting and technical support).|
|Use of the above means to provide information feedback about various oppositional activities, thus facilitating their improvement.|
|Monitoring function||Monitoring elections with the help of the Internet–based systems.||Based on the data accumulated in these systems, sending mobile groups of activists to the suspicious polling stations or initiating litigation against electoral violations. The online publication of objective election results and the results of independent exit polls falls under the informational function of the dissenters, already considered above.|
|Financial support function||Internet–based requests for Internet–facilitated financial support.||Gathering financial means to conduct the political struggle.|
|Technical support function||Internet–facilitated informational and communication support of the horizontal “Web” structure of the oppositional organizations in order to eliminate a single center which the authorities can target and so easily destroy the whole organization. The physical architecture of the Internet naturally supports such a structure. Technological resources, such as multiple mirrored computer servers, and even key human resources may be located in strong democratic foreign states with developed, ramified and well–defended Internet systems.||To maintain access to the oppositional ICT means and to defend and repair them from physical or cyber attacks.|
|Use of Internet–based technologies to ensure additional security for opposition members and their communication through the use of anonymous proxy servers, encrypting, secure password access, etc.|
2. The people
The people (mostly voters) of non–democratic countries, can primarily be considered neutral stakeholders in the system of electoral revolution, serving as a potential support base for the other two domestic stakeholders — dissenters and authorities — who compete for votes. In the case of the personnel of a major cell–phone provider joining the protests and even actively helping with increasing cell phone coverage we have an example of dynamic interaction and transformation of initially politically neutral individuals into dissenters. Theoretically, similar behavior and interaction/transformation are possible also between individuals and authorities(including their active domestic supporters). Therefore this stakeholder should be considered a dynamic one (as well as, in general, other stakeholders in our system).
Politically–neutral people (especially their young, technically sophisticated and creative representatives) sometimes also conduct functions that are objectively positive for the opposition and negative for the authorities in the (semi–)authoritarian states, such as acting as citizen journalists during oppositional activities, uploading their stories, pictures and videos of events to the Internet, and providing online feedback about the opposition’s activities. Such people also often offer their services to improve the technical capacity of the opposition or to create pieces of online humor, sometimes solely for technical or creative interests.
All these people are potential supporters of the opposition, so they could be actively targeted by its informational campaigns in order to eventually convert them into active and deliberate opposition supporters (i.e., into dissenters).
3. Foreign entities supporting the dissenters
This stakeholder performs three main functions: support of the dissenters, counteracting the enemies of the dissenters, including the authorities and foreign entities supporting them, and self–sustainment/self–enhancement. These activities are enacted through several sub–functions:
- Providing financial support to the dissenters using Internet–enabled means;
- Offering technical support, such as securely located servers, to the dissenters;
- Providing the dissenters with technical, tactical, and strategic advice regarding access to and maintenance, improvement and repair of Internet–based ICTs;
- Conducting informational campaigns, including propaganda and counter–propaganda, in foreign (relative to the dissenters) media, often with a triple aim: supporting the dissenters, debunking the dissenters’ enemies, and self–sustaining (recruiting and retaining their own ranks in the case of the non–governmental organizations); and,
- Providing feedback both on the dissenters’ activities and on the supporting foreign entities’ own actions (e.g., through the comments of the readers of online news digests).
During electoral revolutions, the authorities’ activities are aimed at weakening their enemies and gaining the support and votes of the people. In order to achieve these aims they may carry out these Internet–related functions:
- Develop and implement legislation restricting possibilities for the opposition to use Internet–based ICTs for its political struggle — i.e., the employment of legal censorship;
- Covert censorship of the controlled mass media (such as the use of temnyky — special instructions from the Presidential administration to the traditional mass media — in the Ukrainian case);
- Propaganda and counter–propaganda, possibly with the participation of friendly state(s) able to conduct powerful (mis)information campaigns in the authorities’ country; information wars;
- Deliberate restriction of the Internet and cellular telephony penetration and access in the country (including technologies like China’s Great Firewall); active monitoring and intercepting of Internet–based and cellular communication;
- Oppressive off–line anti–dissenter activities conducted by police and secret services, including confiscating/destroying oppositional Internet–related hardware resources and/or arresting active dissenters, including those in charge of the resources;
- Organization of “friendly” Internet users and groups to spoil oppositional Internet resources, such as forums, with provocative, destructive and mendacious messages; this can be done in cooperation with other friendly state(s) and their secret services;
- Use of cyberwar–like attacks against the Internet resources and Internet–connected computers of the dissenters and their foreign friends. This can be done in cooperation with the friendly state(s) and their secret services, or by using “independent” paid hackers; and,
- Direct manipulation of the election results using technologies like the “transit server” in the case of Ukraine.
5. Foreign entities supporting the authorities
These entities intend to support the authorities and weaken their enemies (dissenters and their foreign allies). If they have enough information resources in the targeted country, they may also try to convince the people to support the authorities. They can do all this by carrying out the following Internet–related functions, usually in coordination with the authorities:
- Consulting the authorities on the tactics and strategy of struggle against the dissenters and for the votes of the people;
- Information wars;
- Cyberwar–like attacks, sometimes using “independent” hired hackers;
- Blocking, monitoring and intercepting dissent–related Internet communications going through the networks they control; and,
- Organization of “friendly” Internet users and groups to spoil oppositional Internet resources, such as forums, with provocative, destructive and mendacious messages.
This framework can be presented graphically (Figure 1):
|Figure 1: A system of electoral revolution. For the sake of clarity of the diagram, only a few information flows related to the stakeholders’ functions (represented by arrows) are shown. A positive/negative sign at the arrow’s end means that the corresponding function (its information flow) makes an objectively increasing/decreasing impact on the power of the targeted stakeholder (and, consequently, on its functions).|
For example, alternative information supplied by the dissenters through Internet–based ICTs can reveal authorities’ various misdeeds. Usually in non–democratic states these misdeeds would not surface through state–controlled traditional mass media. This alternative information would on one hand undermine the positions of the authorities and their international support (therefore the corresponding arrows in Figure 1 have negative signs), and on the other, strengthen the dissenters’ power base among local and international supporters (thus the corresponding arrows have positive signs). Similar explanations can be provided for the other elements of the above diagram.
An important role in such frameworks is played by the actual strength of each arrow; that is, how strong the impact of the particular information flow is on the particular stakeholder and, consequently, on the stakeholder’s ability to fulfill its functions related to the framework. Such values are usually incorporated into a framework in the form of numerical parameters (coefficients) ranging from zero towards positive and negative values. For example, if the impact of a particular information flow on a particular stakeholder under particular circumstances is negligible, then the respective coefficient can be zero. But if the impact is considered significant, then the coefficient will be non–zero, and its sign will be determined as either positive or negative by whether the respective information flow increases or decreases the power of the stakeholder. The absolute values of the coefficients are determined by the experts taking into account all the related circumstances (“factors”; see Kuzio, 2005) of the system; in this case, the particular revolutionary situation. These values can change over time depending on the development of the revolutionary situation and its changing environment.
The above framework helps us understand the dynamics of political struggle using Internet–based ICTs during electoral revolutions. In order to enhance its reliability, the results from other successful or attempted “color” revolutions can be incorporated, contributing to a more comprehensive, robust and reliable middle–range typological theory. For example, since in our case we did not observe any cyberattacks conducted by the dissenters against the authorities’ online resources (apparently, because those resources were not dangerous to the dissenters), we did not include a related function into our diagram. But in general case of the more extensive authorities’ use of the Internet, the dissenters can try to shut the related authorities’ Internet resources down through the employment of the cyberattacks (as was observed in June 2009 in Iran; see Gross, 2009a). Therefore, after more detailed study of the related cases such as the dissenters’ function can also be included in our framework. The diagram can also easily be transformed into a system dynamics diagram, like those presented in Sterman (2000) or Pavlov, et al. (2005), and can be used to model outcomes of electoral revolutions based on the numeric parameters and coefficients applicable, similar to the models featured in Subrahmanian and Dickerson (2009). For greater comprehensiveness, additional functions, determined in Lysenko and Desouza (2010), can also be incorporated into the framework.
Using this framework we arrive at several major implications related to the Internet as an important provider of alternative political information, and effective tool to organize opposition under non–democratic regimes.
Internet penetration rate and organizational considerations
We see that even a low level of Internet penetration is enough for its serious use in the political process. In autumn 2000, the Internet penetration rate in Ukraine was only about one to two percent, but it grew very fast as soon as people realized its importance in getting information unavailable otherwise; see row #1 in theAppendix. Today, an overwhelming majority of countries have rates of Internet penetration much higher than these levels . This positions the Internet as a powerful political tool with serious global potential to organize people and to supply them with alternative information.
In the case of Ukraine we observed that, due to the two–step nature of the information communication process, the provision of alternative information to even a relatively small number of dissenters was apparently sufficient to initiate a network–related effect, when the information spreads exponentially, like an epidemic. We can therefore conclude that the Internet does not need to have a mass penetration rate in order to effectively help in the promotion of a major socio–political change. As we saw in Ukraine, respected people with especially good connections, such as university professors, popular journalists, known political activists, and famous athletes like the heavyweight boxing champions the Klitschko brothers , helped to attract public attention to the events of the Orange Revolution. While Ukrainian traditional mass media did not spread opposition–supporting information, the appearance of these celebrities on the Internet helped spread their views to a wider audience, many of whom could also become supporters of Yushchenko. In turn, we can surmise that the new supporters spread information further and further, similar to the process of information dissemination we observed in the AUR and UKLexamples.
Another important finding was the necessity of locating the oppositional Web sites beyond the reach of the repressive authorities by hosting them on servers located in strong democratic countries. Moreover, in order to protect them relatively robustly from the cyberattacks initiated by authoritarian regimes, the servers should be situated in countries with relatively strong technical defenses and a highly ramified Internet network, such as the United States (see also in Table 1 the respective sub–function of the technical support function). Additional strength is achievable by the creation of several mirror sites situated at different servers in physically different parts of the Internet. It is also essential that the national Internet domain name registrars remain free from control by the non–democratic authorities to prevent the authorities from suspending registration of the oppositional Internet resources and thus switching them off.
The Internet as an alternative information channel
Our study provides evidence to support Internet–based media as major alternative sources of information free from the authorities’ total control over most traditional mass media (TV, radio, major printed media; see also row 7 in the Appendix). In particular, the opposition effectively used the informational power of the Internet to bypass the government’s media censorship, and provide people with more objective information (see also in Table 1 the respective sub–functions of the informational function). The Internet also provided an effective oppositional two–way communication channel: during the Orange Revolution Internet–based mass media could both reach and reflect perspectives under–represented in traditional Ukrainian information outlets (see row 10 in the Appendix). This created an important informal information feedback network: the opposition was able to use suggestions and evidence from numerous laypeople all around the country to constantly improve its campaign during the very long three–round election period. In contrast, the authorities had very limited feedback on their campaign, primarily from the secret services who proved to be ineffective during the Revolution, and from sociological consultants, which were often biased or unprofessional.
The Internet helped change the situation during the Revolution in favor of the opposition, both by effectively disseminating oppositional information and by gathering important informational feedback (see also in Table 1 the respective sub–function of the organizational (coordination) function). Mobile technology continues to develop as new models of Internet–enabled hand–held devices equipped with large, color, high–definition screens and still or video cameras become more widely available. As a result, the potential of Internet–based technology to supply dispersed individuals and groups with alternative information and to gather feedback from them only grows. The latest example of this potential took place in June 2009, when, despite strong restrictions on alternative mass media in Iran, the world received reports from citizen journalists armed with video–enabled cell phones: they recorded what was going on in the streets and uploaded their reports to YouTube and iReport.com, or used Twitter to share short, multi–part text messages with the world (Bright, 2009; Labott, 2009; Weir, 2009).
Of particular importance during electoral revolutions in non–democratic countries is the use of the Internet to provide alternative election–related information (see rows 2, 3, 10, and 12 in the Appendix). During the Orange Revolution, the Internet effectively and efficiently disseminated exit poll results, particularly given the rapidly changing political situation around the time of the second vote. This proved to be decisive — when the authorities announced Yanukovych’s victory despite the fact that all independent exit poll results, as posted on oppositional Web sites, indicated a decisive victory for Yuschenko, the Ukrainian people felt indignation and immediately started mass protests. A similar situation occurred in Iran in June 2009. Given the nature of the repressive regime, it was also important that the Internet provided some (albeit limited) anonymity for both authors and readers of Internet publications, thus restricting government access to their identities. While about 300 Pora activists were detained by the authorities shortly before the first round of the Ukrainian presidential elections of 2004 (Bandera, 2006), this anonymity ensured that the majority of Pora’s informal leaders were not affected by the repression. This allowed the whole civic campaign to continue its successful political struggle. The horizontal network structure of Pora, as well as its mirrored Yellow and Black “versions”, added robustness to the organization (see also row 3 in the Appendix).
Also important during the Orange Revolution was the use of the Internet to broadcast oppositional radio (Prytula, 2006) and TV. The Internet was used to overcome government–imposed limitations on their broadcasts’ geographical reach, and thus to provide important alternative information to a wider range of people. This was especially effective in reaching a foreign audience in developed countries, which already had widespread and affordable broadband Internet access and was able to watch the Orange Revolution live 24/7 on Channel 5’s Web site. The importance of Internet–based TV and radio broadcasts is now constantly growing in less technically developed countries, with more and more people having unlimited broadband Internet access at affordable prices.
Finally, the cost of Internet broadcasts compare favorably to the costs of broadcasting with traditional mass media. Internet–based information outlets are relatively low–cost, because the costs of a suitable computer or the rent of a secure remote server and a dedicated broadband Internet channel are much less than the costs of radio or television broadcast equipment or the costs of printing equipment and supplies. Thus the Ukrainian opposition was able to supply its supporters with the same number of information units at a much lower cost than the authorities, and so was much more cost–effective. There is an additional major cost reduction associated with the use of Internet and related technologies: an Internet–connected computer network minimizes the costs of storing and distributing huge amounts of information, with archive spaces capable of storing instantly accessible and easily searchable textual, video and audio materials. In our research, we were the beneficiaries of this as we were able to instantly access the Maidan site’s huge online archive and Channel 5’s online video archive.
Use of the Internet in combination with traditional informational means
But since Internet penetration was rather low in Ukraine, especially outside the capital and other major cities, the role of print material in spreading oppositional ideas was still highly important. Fortunately, since the mid–1990s Ukraine had an unusually highly developed publishing and printing industry. This was particularly notable given the collapse of other major industries in Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union. When the end of the Cold War rendered industries connected with the military–industrial complex unnecessary, the publishing and printing industries received many highly skilled and quick–learning engineers, designers and IT specialists from the collapsing military–related ones. All they needed were short re–training courses.
By 2004, the Ukrainian publishing and printing industry was eager for new orders, while offering its services at very attractive prices. Moreover, many owners of publishing and printing businesses were supporters of the opposition, willing to ensure the fulfillment of oppositional orders under a condition of secrecy. As a result, the opposition was able to use the Internet to spread print–ready campaign materials through the whole country, including major cities like Kharkiv, Donetsk, Lviv, and others with substantial printing resources for further distribution of materials on the streets in adjacent regions (see also in Table 1 the respective sub–function of the informational function). Those materials, in turn, promoted the opposition’s Internet resources, providing their URLs along with the main text and accompanying images . As a result, tens of millions of copies of oppositional materials prepared using the Internet were distributed literally door–to–door by tens of thousands of Pora and other activists throughout the whole of Ukraine, thus playing an important role in organizing and mobilizing people for the protests and in promoting oppositional Internet resources. Here we see a synergistic, mutually supportive relationship between traditional and Internet–based publishing.
Humor as a political weapon online
The creation and spread of political humor via Internet and related information technologies is another phenomenon that probably played a significant role in the victory of the Orange Revolution (see row 4 in the Appendix). Young people, with their creative and highly skillful use of the Internet, played an important role in that process; they quickly transformed a difficult political struggle into attractive infotainment. Despite the efforts of the authorities to block access to the anti–Yanukovych humor Web sites, the opposition was able to use the speed and robustness of the Internet as a communicative channel to effectively destroy the government candidate’s political image (see also in Table 1 the respective sub–function of the informational function).
Humor and satire can be considered as playing a similar role in the overthrow of a non–democratic regime in the downfall of the U.S.S.R. In a talk at Radio Liberty (RFE/RE, 2009), noted Russian political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin and popular satirist and writer Victor Shenderovich concluded that after the Soviet people dismissed their fears and began openly deriding the regime in the 1980s, it was doomed to fail in short order. Moreover, in present–day non–democratic and (semi–)authoritarian Russia the first sign of political resistance comes in the form of people starting to laugh:
|“Oreshkin: … Resistance of the middle class is already starting.|
Shenderovich: In which forms it is manifesting?
Oreshkin: First of all, [they] are starting to laugh. At those elections they laugh. They have not laughed for a long time.
Shenderovich: … Yes, this is the indicator. …
Oreshkin: Yes, this is the way it [(resistance)] starts — and then gradually spreads.”
Oreshkin also believes that this laughter is an indicator that in contemporary Russia the processes of resistance will start much earlier than they did in the U.S.S.R.: “It seems to me that the level of [latent] resistance in the contemporary [Russian] society is already much higher and much closer to the beginning of the [protest] actions than it was in the Soviet times.” (RFE/RL, 2009) As we see from our research, Internet–based ICTs can help to promote the spreading of anti–authority political humor and so contribute to the ignition of active cyberprotest, defined by Fuchs (2008) as a highly interrelated combination of online and off–line political activity.
Youth and cyberprotest
The opposition skillfully used the important resource of young people, with their natural inclination towards progressive change, freedom and fairness; their high levels of competence with the Internet and related technologies; and, their energy and enthusiasm. This was a generation that already had no physical fear of the authorities because it hardly remembered the times of the Soviet Union, when opposition was cruelly and violently suppressed. Particularly significant was the younger generation’s use of Internet tools; thus, with the arrival of the digital native generation, the role of the Internet in political processes can be increasing.
Iran, where about 70 percent of the population is less than 30 years old, provides another example of this phenomenon (T. Friedman, 2009). One of the young Iranian protesters explained why the repressive authorities could not prevent the use of Internet–based mobilization tools, particularly Twitter: “Twitter is the only method of communication they haven’t found a way to mess with. They don’t understand, but average folks are very technologically competent. Most of the people protesting are in their twenties. It was a big miscalculation on the government’s part.” (Ben–David and Geizhals, 2009) Since a large percentage of the population of many (semi–)authoritarian countries (like Iran) is young, the Internet–based tools facilitating political protest can have even higher potential in those countries.
Mobilization of international support
In the Ukrainian case the global nature of the Internet was effectively used by the opposition to provide information worldwide (e.g., alternative exit poll results were immediately sent through the Internet to major international news services) and so to mobilize a wider international audience for support. Unlike the case of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, the Iranian protestors did not rouse the wider international circles to action. There are several potential explanations for this phenomenon; among them: different global political and economic situations in 2009 versus 2004, relatively fast suppression of the protests by the Iranian authorities , and the relative weakness of the Iranian diaspora worldwide.
English–language Web sites and blogs created by both local and expatriate Ukrainians also played an important role in disseminating information about the Orange Revolution to an international audience — as well as the English–language news digests like AUR and UKL (see row 11 in the Appendix). Several relevant features (see also Bandera, 2006) made them convenient Internet–based information dissemination tools: form, content, language, feedback possibility, immediacy, and readiness for re–distribution. The e–mail subscription list form enabled them to be widely promoted to a potentially interested audience via peer–to–peer information sharing and by active promotion on popular political Web sites. The content was constantly targeted at the main events related to the Revolution. Their use of English, the de facto international language, enabled the involvement and awareness of much of the influential world community. Feedback from readers was another important feature, thus maintaining a two–way communication channel. Events were publicized immediately, providing instant full coverage. Finally, the text–only presentation facilitated its spread by simple copying and forwarding. Due to these features, such digests could effectively involve people worldwide in the events occurring in Ukraine.
Such e–mail–based publications, as well as more sophisticated Internet resources like the oppositional Web sites, apparently also played important roles in soliciting financial support for the opposition (see also in Table 1 the financial support function). Ukrainians who lived in Ukraine were relatively poor, on average having ten times lower salaries than members of the Ukrainian diaspora in the West. Therefore, ads requesting financial support primarily targeted the diaspora. In some cases, these ads were even promoted on the Web sites of leading Western information and news providers. Another reason to target financial support inquiries mostly to the West was the underdeveloped system of Internet payments, money transfers, and credit cards available in Ukraine at that time. In addition, it was not safe for the representatives of the opposition in Ukraine to provide open financial support through Ukrainian banks, which were for the most part either state–owned or controlled by the same government–affiliated oligarchs who controlled Ukrainian traditional mass media. It looks that ultimately, the system of funding the Ukrainian opposition through Internet donations, mostly from the Ukrainian diaspora, and of accumulating the funds in politically neutral, reliable, and usually Western banks proved to be effective.
Information wars online
Information wars were actively conducted around the time of the Orange Revolution (see row 9 in the Appendix). Apparently, the main opposing forces in those events understood well the importance of shaping the minds of people by powerful messages in various kinds of media: “what does not exist in the media does not exist in the public mind.”  Therefore, the pro–Yanukovych forces, including Russia with its strong technical and organizational capabilities, tried to use every opportunity to impose their worldview on the Ukrainian people. In particular, the main Russian TV and radio channels, as well as its main printed information sources, were widespread in Ukraine. During the Ukrainian elections, Russian and Ukrainian authorities tried to use the Internet to wage informational war against Viktor Yushchenko and the pro–Yushchenko forces. The Internet was also purposefully used by Russian political technologists to barefacedly circumvent the official Ukrainian publication ban on sociological data on the election day and its eve.
When Yushchenko was poisoned with dioxin, even one well–respected Western information agency was apparently purposefully manipulated to spread information, later proven false, about the reasons for his illness (Bandera, 2006). While the agency quickly retracted that information, the misinformation was readily carried on by Russian and pro–governmental Ukrainian mass media, including Internet–based media outlets. These media sources cited each other in chains to create the illusion of credibility and the illusion that multiple independent sources were reporting it. When Russia–based news search engines like Yandex, which mostly index Russian–language Internet resources, indexed these sources, they added to the inaccurate perception of credibility. These search engines could be under the influence of the Russian authorities. For example, in September 2009, Yandex “voluntarily” gave its golden share to the leading Russian state–owned bank, Sberbank, and the very next month certain rumors appeared that the Yandex search results were “readjusted, cleaned out, and tuned up” in favor of certain views on topics sensitive for the authorities (Bychkova and Osetinskaia, 2009). Taking into account the high popularity of both Russian–language search engines and Russian mass media of various forms in both Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, it is difficult to overestimate the potential danger of such informational special operations in former Soviet republics that are of interest to Russia.
During the Orange Revolution, the Ukrainian opposition was able to restore the information field by generating a fast and massive counter–response through its Internet–based information outlets (see also row 5 in the Appendix). They were aided in this endeavor by their supporters’ general mistrust of Russian mass media. English–language Internet–based independent resources on Ukraine, such as the previously mentioned news digests, apparently also played an important role in counteracting the Russia–instigated information war on the opposition (see row 11 in the Appendix). Thus, the opposition was able to use mostly Internet–based oppositional informational resources to skillfully and successfully level the information field against the massive information intrusion of the powerful foreign state, which had all kinds and forms of both traditional and new media at its disposal.
The Internet as an effective communicational and organizational channel for opposition
During the Orange Revolution the Internet was also actively and successfully used to coordinate major oppositional campaign activities. Combined with cell phone technology (see row 12 in the Appendix), it allowed activists dispersed across Ukraine to communicate in real–time having either Internet or cell phone access (see also in Table 1 the respective sub–function of the organizational (coordination) function). Apparently, this allowed Pora and Maidan campaigners to keep in constant touch and to coordinate actions (see row 3 in the Appendix) — a huge strategic advantage over the generally slow–to–react pro–governmental forces. The Internet also provided dissenters with limited anonymity and the ability to restrict governmental access to their operative discussions — as in the previously mentioned case of Black Pora, which used an overseas–based secure server with coded password access to secretly communicate and coordinate its actions (see also in Table 1 the respective sub–function of the technical support function). The reliance of the Iranian opposition on Twitter during the protests in June 2009 probably created a problem, as the Iranian authorities could easily follow the open information channel’s Twitter reports which provided detailed descriptions of the protest events in the streets. In this situation, the Iranian opposition might have been better served by utilizing more secretive technologies, as excessive information openness can sometimes play a negative role in events which naturally require some secrecy. It seems that in Ukraine, the secret services were too ill–prepared to effectively intercept oppositional communication over the ICT–enabled networks; in Iran, the situation was, apparently, different.
Internet–based systems for the monitoring of elections under non–democratic regimes
Internet–based election monitoring systems can also be useful in electoral revolutions to prevent falsification of the election results. In the Orange Revolution we saw (row 2 in the Appendix) how the Internet could be combined with other information and communication tools, like databases, cell phones, and call centers, to create an election monitoring structure. Such an online system, which could gather voting complaints, streamline their processing, and later help in filing litigation, could prove very effective for monitoring and contesting elections in non–democratic countries (see also in Table 1 the monitoring function). Such a system might have proven itself useful in situations such as the April 2009 elections in Moldova and the June 2009 elections in Iran. The Internet’s ability to widely and immediately disseminate independent exit polls results, including those that contradict the official election results, can be considered as another crucial factor in the ignition of mass protests.
Authorities’ attitudes and use of the Internet
The Ukrainian opposition during the Orange Revolution was greatly aided by the authorities’ underestimation of the informational and organizational potential of the Internet. It seems that the authorities’ attitude towards the Internet was mostly passive and defensive (see row 8 in the Appendix) due to their reliance on their near–complete control of the traditional mass media, which they considered much more powerful than Internet–based media. They did not take any legal actions to restrict Internet access, as Ukraine never had Internet–related laws which could be used as a base for such actions. Apparently, by the time the government realized the real political potential of the Internet, it was already too late — it did not possess the necessary legal, technical or human resources to conduct any serious and effective anti–oppositional actions on the Internet. While the Ukrainian government, in apparent coordination with Russian forces, attempted covert Internet actions such as using hacker attacks, blocking access to oppositional Internet resources, or sending virus–containing e–mail mesages targeting dissenters’ computers (Bandera, 2006), these had only very limited and short–term success. These examples demonstrate that the dissenters used Internet–based ICTs, often in combination with cell phones, more skillfully than their opponents.
However, this does not mean that Russian and other oppressive authorities do not currently possess serious potential for Internet intrusion. Russia has evidently learned some lessons from the Orange Revolution (row 6 in the Appendix) as it apparently was able to conduct a rather effective cyberwar against Estonia in spring 2007, nearly disabling Estonian Internet communications for several weeks (Bright, 2007). The opposing forces learned their lesson in turn. During the Russian war against Georgia in summer 2008, experience gained from the Estonian situation enabled the Georgians to restore their Internet communications in a matter of days (Thomson, 2008).
In the case of the Orange Revolution, we could observe the only major effect on the election results from the authorities’ Internet involvement — their manipulation and falsification of the official returns using the “transit server.” Probably the best way to eliminate such intrusions in the future is the usage of a completely independent, monitored, isolated and defended detached special communication system to transmit election results.
We have substantiated that the Orange Revolution was actually a prolonged process which lasted from 2000–2004 and had two active phases — the Kuchmagate crisis and the Orange Revolution of autumn–December 2004. While the Kuchmagate crisis of 2000 to 2001 was eventually unsuccessful for the opposition, it apparently played an important role in the initial formation of the oppositional movement in Ukraine and established the Internet as an authoritative source of alternative information and as a means for the mobilization of the opposition, leading to the eventual success of the Orange Revolution in 2004. Given this pattern, we may consider the relatively unsuccessful electoral revolutions of April 2009 in Moldova and of June 2009 in Iran as the first manifestations of the political power of the Internet in those countries, which may be successful in the near future. Later events in Moldova seem to support this supposition — April’s crisis quickly led to the dissolution of the elected Parliament and to the scheduling of new Parliamentary elections in July 2009, which resulted in the defeat of the communists (Turgut, 2009).
The events in Ukraine, Iran, and Moldova highlight several other findings that, while not major, are still seem significant. We have seen evidence that the Internet ensures robust information and communication channels for the opposition. Due to its architecture, the Internet is highly resistant to malicious efforts to control the information it provides (see Tu, 2000). Thus, the repressive authorities cannot rely on their ability to shut it down or control it for any significant length of time. It seems that the Internet can also provide, at least at the subconscious level, some psychological confidence to dissenters and their supporters — if they believe that it would be difficult for the government to shut down the Internet, their important information and communication medium. Palfrey, et al. (2009) use the recent events in Iran to provide additional contemporary evidence of the difficulty for the authorities to completely shut the Internet down. All of these revolutionary situations confirm the “dictator’s dilemma” :
|“Totalitarian societies face a dilemma: either they try to stifle these [information and communication] technologies and thereby fall further behind in the new industrial revolution, or else they permit these technologies and see their totalitarian control inevitably eroded.”|
Our research establishes the value of the Internet as an information and communication tool for democratic opposition in non–democratic societies. For this potential to be fully realized, certain conditions must exist: “a general situation of contention in the country; the lack of its coverage in traditional media; and, the availability of strong oppositional groups and voices (both political and civil).” 
Under these conditions in Ukraine, the Internet provided a robust informational channel that enabled the dissenters to effectively coordinate their activities, to gain ever–increasing international support, and to successfully erode the positions of the authorities. During the Revolution the situational dynamics consistently developed in a direction favorable to the protesters and adverse to their opponents. As time went on, the process of the successful development of the Revolution became hardly stoppable within the system defined. Our proposed framework describes and explains these dynamics.
As an overall conclusion we can state that Internet–based ICTs are capable of offering strong potential for both delivering alternative information to individuals in non–democratic countries and ensuring robust communication channels for active dissenters and their potential supporters. The role of ICTs in the near future will probably only increase. The situations examined in our study can be compared to similar electoral revolutions in order to create a more comprehensive and reliable theoretical framework for the effective use of the Internet in non–violent revolutionary transformations to democracy in non–democratic countries.
In our research we used an inductive approach. In order to confirm and further develop our conclusions and hypotheses the employment of other methods of scientific inquiry is desirable. In particular, such research tools as additional direct interviews, surveys, various methods of statistical and social network analysis, and system dynamics modeling could be used. Additional research into the role of new (widely appearing after 2004) Internet–based ICTs, such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and other social networking systems, in electoral revolutions should also be conducted, particularly given their roles in the recent 2009 “Twitter revolutions” in Iran and Moldova. The application of our proposed framework to these new conditions could be an area of fruitful research to examine what, if any, new features these tools add to our initial system as outlined in this paper. Our next research will also be devoted to the investigation of these questions.
About the authors
Volodymyr V. Lysenko is a Ph.D. candidate at the Information School, University of Washington, Seattle. His research interests are in the area of Internet–based technologies and socio–political change.
E–mail: vlysenko [at] u [dot] washington [dot] edu
E–mail: vlysenko [at] u [dot] washington [dot] edu
Kevin C. Desouza is on the faculty of the Information School at the University of Washington. He holds adjunct appointments in the College of Engineering and Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. His research interests are in the areas of strategic innovation, knowledge management, government and national security programs, and security studies. He has published over 100 papers, seven books, and has briefed over 50 government and private organizations. He has received over US$1.2 million of research funding and is a fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.
E–mail: kev [dot] desouza [at] gmail [dot] com
E–mail: kev [dot] desouza [at] gmail [dot] com
1. For the purposes of this paper we will use the term information and communication technologies (ICTs) to signify technology solutions and platforms that are deployed over the Internet. Today, with the advancement in Web 2.0 information and communication technologies we have begun to witness sophisticated user–driven and bottom–up emergent communication technologies that enable social networking, virtual coordination and collaboration, and information sharing.
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|Appendix: Examples of some of the Orange Revolution case processes dynamics.|
Note: * Approximate numbers; see the above case for details.
|December 1999 — mid–September 2000||Mid–September 2000 — December 2000||December 2000 — March 2002||March 2002 — October 2004||October 2004 — 21 November 2004||22 November 2004 — 26 December 2004||27 December 2004 — 23 January 2005|
|1||Internet penetration*||Less than 1 percent||1–2 percent||Jumped by about 50 percent||Growth from 3 to 6 percent||Rise from 6 to 8 percent||Rise from 8 to 12 percent||About 11–12 percent|
|2||Internet–based election monitoring system||Absent||Absent||Absent||Under development: pilot testing during the first round election||First stage developed: active use during the second round election||Second stage added: the full–blown system use during the third round election||The system’s data are used for the solution of the post–election discussions|
|3||Internet–facilitated dissenters’ movement structure||Rather loose connections between separate organizations||Maidancyberprotest community’s fast development||Maidancyberprotest community’s steady development||Pora’sInternet–supported mirrored horizontal structures development, close cooperation with Maidan||Poras andMaidanstructures’ Internet–facilitated active preparation for the second round||Active Internet–supported participation in street protests||Partial transformation into political parties with an active Internet presence|
|4||Online–based political dissent humor/satire||Absent||Absent||Absent||In development, especially rapid beginning July 2004||Active use before the second round||Active use during the protests||Steady reduction after the third round|
|5||Internet–based information wars||Weak||Active||Weak||Developing from weak to active||Very active||Very active||Weak|
|6||Cyberwars||Absent||Absent||Absent||Developing to active phase by September 2004||Active phase||Steadily decreasing manifestations||Absent|
|7||Authorities’ control over TV||Almost complete||Almost complete||Almost complete||Almost complete, except for Channel 5||Almost complete, except for Channel 5||Rapid loss of control||Almost no control|
|8||Authorities’ attitude towards the Internet||Neglectful||Neglectful||Neglectful||Weak attempts to build some Internet presence||Late attempts to build some Internet presence||Weak and diminishing attempts to maintain some Internet presence||Practically complete absence|
|9||Internet–based anti–dissenters activity of foreign entities supporting authorities||Low||Medium||Medium||Developing from medium to high||High||Reducing from high to medium||Medium|
|10||Overall dissenters’ use of the Internet||Developing||Local peak||Slowly developing further||Steadily developing to high by September||Very high||Very high||Decreasing to moderate|
|11||Internet–based activity of foreign entities supporting dissenters||Medium||High||Medium||Medium||High||Very high||High|
|12||Internet–supported cell phone use by dissenters||Absent||Absent||Absent||Developing to high by summer 2004||Very high||Very high||Decreasing|
Received 19 July 2010; revised 22 July 2010; accepted 27 July 2010.
Copyright © 2010, First Monday.
Copyright © 2010, Volodymyr V. Lysenko and Kevin C. Desouza.
Copyright © 2010, Volodymyr V. Lysenko and Kevin C. Desouza.
Role of Internet–based information flows and technologies in electoral revolutions: The case of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution
by Volodymyr V. Lysenko and Kevin C. Desouza.
First Monday, Volume 15, Number 9 - 6 September 2010
by Volodymyr V. Lysenko and Kevin C. Desouza.
First Monday, Volume 15, Number 9 - 6 September 2010