ricardo dominguez on 21 Mar 2001 00:45:31 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Internet Europe: Hacktivism, Cyberterrorism Or Online Democracy?

Internet Europe: Hacktivism, Cyberterrorism Or Online Democracy?
Have you ever felt you'd like to protest but you are too old, to busy and
too tired to join a street rally? 

19 March 2001, 5 pm GMT 

by Paola Di Maio 

Hacktivism has been recently defined by a newspaper article in the
Guardian as "a highly politicised underground movement using direct action
in cyberspace to attack globalisation and corporate domination of the

Targets, mainly multinational corporations and political organizations,
are hit with a range of electronic weapons, from viruses to email bombs,
which crash websites by bombarding them with thousands of protest
messages, said an article. 

Last week an organisation called netstrike.it encouraged online surfers to
log on a target address to use up all its bandwidth 
and clog the online access to the site. 

The action was part of a series of activities against the Global Summit
held in Naples last Saturday, which ended up in a violent riot with the
authorities and produced two hundred casualties. 

"We think that it's right and necessary to enter in the contents of the
Global Forum about e-government: for this reason we want to oppose the
actual function of technologies, used to grow speculations and social
control, with an antagonist use of the new technologies. So we are
organising a netstrike against the trading on-line for the first day of
the Global Forum, and our goal is to block, also if only partially, the
highways of globalisation, the main points of the global economy." said
the manifesto that was circulated online, followed by the instructions on
how to join the protest. 

"Netstrike, or cyber-rally, is the equivalent of an online demonstration
where people take up the streets. Here, we take up the bandwidth of the
digital highway in just the same way. We do this to demonstrate dissent
and to protest against a particular company or activity, and the
disruption goes on as long as long as the demonstration goes on" explains
Tommaso Tozzi, intellectual and media lecturer in Florence. 

Paul Mobbs , a British hacktivist from a group called 'electrohippies
collective' co-hosted a meeting recently at the ICA in London to discuss
how hactivism "It removes the advantages that larger or mainstream groups
possess, for example money, influence and 
preferential access to media. No longer are small minorities restricted by
lack of access. On the internet all access is roughly equal." 

"I just want to have the open debate" commented Mobbs during an online
discussion "I think people in the UK are now waking up to this in
retrospect. Unless we have the open debate so the public can understand
the issues involved in hacktivism, then all hackers will be subjected to
the same bullshit we have had in the UK over the past year. The only
reason Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, was able to get the Terrorism and
RIP legislation through Parliament was because nobody knew about the
issues. Consequently they just believed the bullshit he peddled them about
the risks to the public from people bent on 'disrupting electronic
networks'. Now suddenly we can be classed as terrorists for planning
online protest action" continued Mobbs. 

"Hacktivists have provided a new political ethic for the hacking activity
of the past 'that tended to be more about narcissistic power games than
any real protest against the system," says Paul Taylor, a sociology 
lecturer at Salford university. "Hacktivism can be seen as the latest
manifestation of a long history of opposition to capitalism and 
its disorienting effects." 

In Britain the Terrorism Act last month was updated to include
Cyberterrorism offences: anyone who tries to "seriously disrupt an
electronic system" with the intention of threatening or influencing the
government or the public, and does it to advance a "political, religious
or ideological cause", can be classed as a terrorist. 

But the origins and motives of hacking are still controversial. 

Not only hackers - who spot vulnerabilities and fix them - must be
distinguished from crackers - who spot vulnerabilities to exploit them,
but their degree of political commitment can vary a lot. 

"Some hackers are apolitical, stereotypical computer nerds. But most
aren't, though they don't all want to engage in politics through computer
attacks, cracking, etc" reminds Amy Alexander of plagiarist.org 

So while governments discuss how to possibly adopt e-government policies,
and how to run cybergovernments with real cyberelections, net hacktivists
are getting organized and show people how to protest online, if that's
what they want to do.


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