Hacktivist Culture


Coding Freedom, explored hackers pov working on open source software. Coleman’s most important point about the open source software is that it is absolute political neutrality, and “is foremost a technical movement based on the principles of free speech, its historical role in transforming other arenas of life is not primarily rooted in the power of language or the discursive articulation of a broad political vision”. Even though I am unfamiliar with certain technical hacking terms, Coleman made the read easy to understand by explaining such terms as “pointers, compilersm, core dumps, shells bash,m gnupgs etc” while still understanding the hackers lifespan over a period of time, making it significant. She uses the hacker conference as a growing point of activist hacking, making it big. Throughout the book, Coleman makes us aware that the hacking life-hood is predominately male. She describes hackers as constantly, “make and remaking themselves in a slow, piecemeal rhythm as they engage in diverse activities (coding, reading, debating, gaming, playing, and socializing) in equally diverse settings and institutions (the Internet, conferences development projects places of work and at home). This idealized image of a hacker seems like it could be any person at any given time walking amongst us. Her description and narrative of a hacker is accurate. This is what a hacker is and what a hacker experiences and represents.

What struck me as most importance throughout the book is the hackers freedom of speech or in other terms “coding is not a crime”. I feel that the notion of coding as not free speech is new to some folk. Hacking has only been really in the forefront since the early 1990s. People could not wrap there heads around political activism happening by hacking source code. I like Coleman new claim to hacking that simple put, “Code is speech”. Today I think of example like Anonymous, and as Coleman later brings up, that use this assertion to make claims against the indiscriminate application of intellectual property law to reformulate ideals against big businesses or monopolies from free speech. Then and even today, it is the world around us and the world that hackers can see and try to make us aware with contrives over free speech and intellectual property principles. Unfortunately for those hackers and as Coleman makes us aware, these two, free speech and intellectual property law fall under the US constitution making the hackers way of revealing issues as conflict. Because of this conflict, hackers who only want to code are unavoidably, struck with issues and have to gain knowledge within intellectual property law. Successful hackers today see as much law as code. To an outsider, the connectedness of the two just come with the territory of hacking.

An interesting quote by Ray Patterson shows that the values we exhibit today are that of a democratic society, “A society which freedom of expression as a basic principle of liberty restricts that freedom to the extent that it vests ideas with legally protected property interests”. Even though the U.S has the most relaxed and broadest free speech protections, we limit hackers or others scope of speech (and has also expanded the terms of free speech and intellectual property laws). Anonymous, has exhibited movements in the past with Ddos attacks on governments, religious entities and big businesses on corporate websites. Calling themselves an activist hacktivist group calling to make us aware of retaliation against groups like Church of Scientology, big corporations like Paypal, MasterCard and Sony to government agencies internationally. The group does create a new found freedom by explore such groups like child pornography sites, ant-digital piracy and even copyright protection agencies. Anonymous has now since braced from a centralized group. Today Anonymous has associated itself with related groups and has supported other movements like Wiki Leaks and Arab Spring, however their structure they operate under has remained the same, of opposing internet censorship and control. The Arab Spring support from hackers and Anonymous are positive promoting the Arab Spring movements and within the Middle East to show that technologies from social media has leveraged these protests/protesters to push for new change and a new democracy. Since the internet and social media, the Arab world has been transformed. This new technology has tapped into a new interconnectedness to change old authoritarian regimes and create new democracies, what anonymous and hacktivists stand for.

In The Atlantic, Gabriella Coleman writes of the group, “In some ways, it may be impossible to gauge the intent and motive of thousands of participants, many of who don’t even bother to leave a trace of their thoughts, motivations, and reactions. Among those that do, opinions vary considerably.” What Coleman does is give a face to these hackers who try and remain anonymous in how they work and operate. She explores the ways in which hackers make decisions, direct attacks and how these attacks are order and are collaborated together from other contributors around the world. Without modern day technology one of this would be made possible. Today, many hackers and those within Anonymous have long been deemed as “freedom fighters” or just plain “cyber terrorists”. However, if they are fighting for awareness and political just under freedom of speech, these cyber attacks are more than just a brief moment of control. Active hackers have been arrested for exerting their God given right of freedom of speech and expression however, participation in these attacks lead to convictions like, “unauthorized impairment of a protected computer”. The question I feel needs to be raised, is that do we as Americans feel a sense of Democracy through the internet? German Phosphor, Herbert Marcuse would argue the notion of social control as it relates to our society. He claims that although we may believe we live in a free society that we claim to be democratic, that only a few people dictate our freedom, making it almost authoritarian. What are your thoughts?


One thought on “Hacktivist Culture

  1. Do we feel a sense of democracy through the internet? In trying to answer your question, I need to know what exactly you mean by democracy. We must note the difference between utopian free-speech and democratic free-speech, and even anarchical free-speech. I believe that we do have a sense of democracy through the internet, but definitely not a utopian one. In a democracy, you get your rights, but all of them are constituted under rules and regulations. Hence, you get a Bill of Rights in a Constitution full of laws. This is democracy. We need to emphasize that fact that there are laws next to our rights. While surfing and working on the internet, we have rights and are free to do whatever we want, as long as it all goes along with the rules and regulations that have been provided. Therefore, yes, we do have a sense of democracy through the internet. It is important to differentiate democracy, anarchy, and utopia. Having free speech and expression and being able to do whatever we want through the internet without sense of authority can only be present in a utopian or anarchical society, not a democratic one.
    As far as the activities practiced by hackers, they definitely violate authority because they are done in a democratic environment constituted by regulations that forbid certain practices on the internet. When Herbert Marcuse says that only a few people dictate our freedom making it almost authoritarian, he is not really touching the main idea of democracy correctly. Democracy is a form of government in which all eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or indirectly through elected representatives—in the proposal, development, and creation of laws, as per Wikipedia. This is the goal of democracy. We elect people to represent us. If you have a good background in politics and diplomacy, “represent us” is similar to “dictate us,” but with more leniency. Democracy comes from the Greek words “demos” meaning people, and “kratos” meaning rule. As long as there is “rule” in the equation, there will be laws that control. Again, we are confusing democracy with utopia. This makes me think of the Arab Spring, since you mentioned it. People in the Arab world started protesting and demanding rights and liberties. While they do have the right to fight for what they want, most of them did not know what they were fighting for. They don’t know what democracy is. They just wanted to be free, making their movement directed towards chaos. Their aim was democracy, but their definition and idea of democracy was tossed between anarchy and utopia.
    So to fully answer your question based on the context you provided, again, yes, I would say that there is a sense of democracy in the way our online activities are handled. I don’t think you can measure democracy in order to say that we might be limited in our rights and freedom of speech practiced online. Obviously there have been cases where bloggers and activists have been warned and prosecuted over the content they publish online. In that case, I would say there is an extreme authoritarian control that contradicts the values of democracy because bloggers and activists are only practicing their right to free speech. They are only talking, not breaking, decoding, stealing, dissecting, and damaging systems like hackers do. For “hacktivism,” there is clearly a violation of intellectual property and regulations. They are breaking, decoding, stealing, dissecting, and damaging systems. It’s like trespassing. We cannot say that since we live in a democratic society that we can roam around freely and walk wherever we want! You cannot just walk into someone’s land using democracy as your defense. There are laws that protect people’s geographic boundaries. And since we all agree with that, we must acknowledge that there are laws to protect people’s virtual boundaries as well. After all, this is democracy, not utopia and not anarchy.

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