Bodó, B. (2014). Hacktivism 1-2-3. Internet Policy Review 3(4) In Focus/publications

This short essay explores how the notion of hacktivism changes due to easily accessible, military grade Privacy Enhancing Technologies PETs. Privacy Enhancing Technologies, technological tools which provide anonymous communications and protect users from online surveillance enable new forms of online political activism. Through the short summary of the ad-hoc vigilante group Anonymous, this article describes hacktivism 1.0 as electronic civil disobedience conducted by outsiders. Through the analysis of Wikileaks, the anonymous whistleblowing website, it describes how strong PETs enable the development of hacktivism 2.0, where the source of threat is shifted from outsiders to insiders. Insiders have access to documents with which power can be exposed, and who, by using PETs, can anonymously engage in political action. We also describe the emergence of a third generation of hacktivists who use PETs to disengage and create their own autonomous spaces rather than to engage with power through anonymous whistleblowing.

20050613_Newsweek_Deep_ThroatThe 2007 launch of Wikileaks, a platform for potential whistleblowers designed to make sensitive documents anonymously public was a turning point in the history of computer based social activism (or hacktivism (Gunkel, 2005, p. 595), in short). The website has many distinct features which enable it to fulfill its role, such as its close relationship with mainstream media organisations, which both disseminated and fact-checked source documents. However, Wikileaks is particularly relevant for our analysis because of its use of Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PETs). PETs is a general name for a family of software and hardware solutions which aim to shield their users from surveillance of their electronic communications and promise to preserve their anonymity. While many different PETs were developed and in use before it, Wikileaks was the first to provide easy to use PETs for the masses. It was also the first PET application that hit the headlines all over the world.

 

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