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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.

1. Dissenters

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 functionSupplying 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.
PropagandaTo recruit supporters from both national and international populations and organizations.
Counter–propagandaTo 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) functionUse 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 functionMonitoring 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 functionInternet–based requests for Internet–facilitated financial support.Gathering financial means to conduct the political struggle.
Technical support functionInternet–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).

4. Authorities

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;
  • Propaganda;
  • 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
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.