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Recent events have drawn attention to the use of Internet–based information and communication technologies (ICTs) [1] 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.