News / Europe

Ukraine's Social Media Revolution Years in the Making

A photographer takes photos of an opposition supporter during a march toward parliament in Kyiv, Feb. 6, 2014.
A photographer takes photos of an opposition supporter during a march toward parliament in Kyiv, Feb. 6, 2014.
Cecily Hilleary
When a Ukrainian women's plea for freedom went viral in February and received nearly eight million views, it demonstrated the power of social media in spreading the message of Ukraine's political reform.

Yulia Marushevska’s emotional YouTube plea spurred thousands of Ukrainians into the streets, but analysts say it is not the first time non-traditional media has helped shape Ukraine's social and political landscape.

Long before social media helped ignite the Arab Spring and other uprising in tense parts of the world, analysts say Ukraine's Orange Revolution in 2004 was the first revolt to organize and promote itself via the internet.

It began in 2000.

The internet was still new to Ukraine: about 200,000 of Ukraine's 49 million citizens were web users.

Among them was journalist Georghiy Gongadze, who launched Ukraine's first online newspaper, Ukrayinska Pravda, or "Ukrainian Truth," a venue to expose government corruption and abuses of power.

It was also a risky enterprise in a country where as many as five journalists had been killed for criticizing the government.

But the internet was so new that the government paid it little attention.

That would change quickly as word about Ukrayinska Pravda got out.

Watch related video from Daniel Schearf - story continues below:
Ukraine's Protest Movement Fueled by Social Mediai
X
Daniel Schearf
March 15, 2014 3:12 PM
Ukraine's domestic political crisis has been overshadowed by Russia's moves on Crimea. But the social media that fueled anti-government protests are still active. VOA's Daniel Schearf has more from Kyiv.

Five months after the site launched, Gongadze disappeared. Weeks later his headless body was discovered in a forest more than 40 miles from home.

After a flawed investigation, the government suggested Gongadze had staged his own kidnapping or had an accident.

But an opposition leader shocked parliament and the nation by revealing secret audio recordings which suggested President Leonid Kuchma had ordered Gongadze's murder.

"At that time, the majority of the Ukrainian mass media were under the control of government oligarchs," said Volodymyr Lysenko, an information research scientist at the University of Washington.

Ukrayinska Pravda published transcripts of the so-called Melnychenko tapes, which boosted its readership from only a few hundred to more than one million.

Then Maidan launched, a website with the self-described purpose of "monitoring, defending, affirming and broadening constitutional rights and freedoms in Ukraine." 

Social media in the Ukraine was off and running.

"Only through the internet were people able to access authoritative information, including those tapes about Gongadze," said Lysenko, an expert in the use of the internet for socio-political change. 

"The internet now also allowed the Ukraine diaspora abroad — for example, here in the United States or in Canada — to watch what was going on live," he said.

Near the end of 2000, more than, 5,000 protesters marched in Kyiv, demanding an independent investigation into Gongadze's disappearance and the president's resignation.

There would be scattered protests for the next four years until the 2004, when rigged elections triggered the Orange Revolution.

The Orange Revolution

The 2004 polls pitted opposition favorite Viktor Yushchenko against Kuchma-backed Viktor Yanukovych.

Miroslaw J. Myj,  the author of a 2005 study on the role of the internet in the Orange Revolution, told VOA that by the time of the election, the internet had become the only source of reliable political information in Ukraine.

It was also a powerful tool for election campaigning, he said.

"If you couldn't put out a legal ad in a newspaper, you would have turned to the internet," said Myj, a professor emeritus at Widener University's School of Business Administration. 

"People realized you could attach political electioneering posters by email, you didn't have to deliver them," he said.

Still, by late 2004, only between two and four percent of Ukrainians were using the internet.

But most were university students or professors, journalists, researchers, young corporate workers or politicians — Ukraine's intellectual and political elite — and they constituted a powerful force for change.

On election day, social research groups conducted exit polls across Ukraine, which Ukrayinska Pravda published along with official government figures that varied significantly, and was concrete evidence that the vote had been tampered with. 
Pro-democracy groups like Pora and Maidan leaped into action.  Not only did they post information on the web, but via cellphone to thousands of registered cellphone users.  After only 17 days of protests across the country, the government called for new elections, and Yushchenko came to power.

Tweeting a revolution

The latest wave of protests began last November, when Ukraine suspended planned agreements with the EU in favor of reviving ties with Russia.  Several hundred Ukrainians gathered in Kiev's Independence Square to protest, and when police began to use violence against them, the crowds grew.

Joshua Tucker is Professor of Politics at NYU and one of four co-directors of the NYU Social Media and Political Participation Laboratory (SMaPP).  His group began collecting data on social media usage in Ukraine from the first day of the protests. 

"Initially we saw a much lower use of Twitter during the protests in Ukraine, for example, than we had seen in Turkey the previous spring, when there had been much, much more usage of Twitter — orders of magnitude higher," he said.

At first, SMaPP noticed that Facebook, not Twitter, was playing the bigger role in organizing the protests.

But as the protests went on, that began to change. 

"Every time there's a big moment in the protests, we see a surge in new Twitter accounts created per day.  And by the end of February, whereas before the crisis there were 50 new accounts created a day, by the end, we're looking at 600 to 800 accounts being created a day," Tucker said.

He says Ukrainians have become very savvy about using social media to reach international audiences.
 
"We see that one of the offers made by Yanukovych was rejected by one of the opposition leaders.  He rejected it using Twitter and he did it in English," Tucker said.  "And three hours later, it was in the New York Times—word for word."

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid