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Crime Your Rights Online

Hacktivism: Civil Disobedience Or Cyber Crime? 243

Posted by Soulskill
from the little-of-column-A-and-a-little-of-column-B dept.
An anonymous reader writes "You don't necessarily have to a hacker to be viewed as one under federal law. ProPublica breaks down acts of 'hacktivism' to see what is considered criminal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. It points out that both Aaron Swartz and Bradley Manning were charged under the CFAA. Quoting: 'A DDoS attack can be charged as a crime under the CFAA, as it “causes damage” and can violate a web site’s terms of service. The owner of the site could also file a civil suit citing the CFAA, if they can prove a temporary server overload resulted in monetary losses. ... The charges for doxing depend on how the information was accessed, and the nature of published information. Simply publishing publicly available information, such as phone numbers found in a Google search, would probably not be charged under the CFAA. But hacking into private computers, or even spreading the information from a hack, could lead to charges under the CFAA.'"
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Hacktivism: Civil Disobedience Or Cyber Crime?

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  • by alen (225700) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:30PM (#42628099)

    a lot of you kids seem to forget that. they went to jail, they walked for miles rather than take the bus and they were beat up by rednecks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by WillAffleckUW (858324)

      a lot of you kids seem to forget that. they went to jail, they walked for miles rather than take the bus and they were beat up by rednecks.

      Exactly.

      The only way to break insane IP "rules" about copyright (which should be 17 years with one renewal by the Person who is the author) and patents (which should be 13 years with one renewal by the Person who is the author) and "who owns stuff" is to crash the system.

      Information just wants to be free.

      • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:02PM (#42628495)

        The only way to break insane IP "rules" ... is to crash the system.

        Well yes, "crashing the system" is "breaking the rules."

        What you want is to CHANGE the rules, and crashing the system is the last thing you want to do to accomplish that goal. If you "crash the system" then you are, in the legal and legislative system, part of the problem that the system must be reinforced to protect against. You are not going to be seen as part of the solution.

        It's like protesting the 65MPH speed limit on the interstate highway by driving 90MPH. The legislature isn't going to say "this shows that we need to increase the speed limit", they are going to increase the budget for the state police so there are more cops to give out more tickets. Or protesting TSA rules about screening procedures by trying to sneak your way past all the screeners with a pocket knife, or smuggling in a prohibited item through the vendor access system. That just proves that there are dangerous people that TSA needs to protect us against, not that they are a failure that needs to be eliminated.

        Information just wants to be free.

        Information isn't a sentient thing, and thus has no "want" associated with it. YOU want information to be free, even information that other people spent money creating. That's an entirely different thing.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          ... want information to be free, even information that other people spent my tax money creating.

          FTFY

          • by Obfuscant (592200)
            You fixed nothing. Those who want information to be free seldom limit that desire to information paid for exclusively by tax dollars. They also include things like music and movies and computer software produced by individuals and businesses.

            I would tend to agree that taxpayer funded information should be free, with some limits. One is that information created under research grants should be first available to people being funded to do that research. That's an issue of keeping the funding available so the

          • ... want information to be free, even information that other people spent my tax money creating.

            It's not that simple. These attacks go after information in the private sector. The basic idea is, no one -- self-styled activist or not -- has the right to mess with other people's property. If you do such a thing, it's a perfectly justified response if you get punched in the mouth, dragged off to jail, or otherwise fucked with in return.

            Do not fuck with other people's shit. Break that rule, and you've lost the

            • Do not fuck with other people's shit. Break that rule, and you've lost the argument and all your moral and ethical cover, all at once.

              Stay on the high road. It's the only one that dependably leads anywhere.

              like all those assholes on the underground railroad, right?

            • by deimtee (762122)
              Your post assumes the premise that you can own information. This is incorrect.
              You can own a physical item that embodies a copy of information and, under current law, you can have the exclusive right to distribute some information, but you cannot own the information itself.
        • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:41PM (#42628915) Journal

          Well yes, "crashing the system" is "breaking the rules."

          Unless you're a banker.

          Information isn't a sentient thing, and thus has no "want" associated with it.

          Information tends towards freedom. Like water tends to assume the shape of its container. Saying "wants" is a cute anthropomorphism that is irrelevant to the point.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Obfuscant (592200)

            Unless you're a banker.

            The bankers were operating under the rules as implemented by the Senate Banking Committee and Mssrs. Frank and Christopher, who were explicit in saying that the system was not broken and did not need fixing, right up to the point that it failed.

            When you demand that banks ignore all the risk indicators when making home loans, those risky loans have to go somewhere and they will, eventually, become a problem for everyone. The goal of everyone owning their own home was fine, but when the means was through re

            • by sjames (1099) on Friday January 18, 2013 @05:14PM (#42629789) Homepage

              When you demand that banks ignore all the risk indicators when making home loans,

              Sounds nice but it's a DAMNED LIE

              Nobody ordered the banks to make bad loans on McMansions. They were ordered to stop a number of discriminatory practices like redlining and to find a way to make mortgage loans to first time buyers without requiring as large of a down payment. Those loans should have been modest in size, sufficient for a starter home, not for a McMansion. They most certainly were not ordered to build time bombs into those loans and offer bad advice as to the risks involved.

              Most assuredly nobody ordered them to make a bunch of huge hot-potato loans and fraudulantly re-package them as AAA rated investments.

              But the bankers who did all of that sure appreciate your gullibility.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Hatta (162192)

              The FBI informed the banks that over 90% of stated income loans were fraudulent. In response, the banks increased the number of stated income loans they made. That is racketeering.

        • "Information isn't a sentient thing, and thus has no 'want' associated with it. YOU want information to be free, even information that other people spent money creating. That's an entirely different thing."

          People misunderstand this because of the "too cute" way it is phrased. It is more akin to the old saying "Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead." In this modern, networked age keeping information secret requires a tremendous effort, while spreading information is trivial. (And that's what it

      • by mrsquid0 (1335303) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:07PM (#42628553) Homepage

        The original quote was "Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive.", which itself is a summation of a longer quote. Just quoting the first part changes the meaning dramatically.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:02PM (#42628489) Journal

      Oh, we remember. It's the authorities who need to remember that sometimes they are on the wrong side of history.

    • by Bureaucromancer (1303477) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:12PM (#42629245)
      Moreover, by definition Civil Disobedience involves breaking the law.
    • by GodInHell (258915)
      I fact -- going to jail was the point.

      Non-violent resistance works because you draw attention to an injustice. If you aren't arrested, aren't beaten, aren't persecuted -- then there's no outrage. It fails. Also, one would argue, there's not much of a problem to be addressed if the only way to keep a scheme in force is by not applying it... but I digress. You should not participate in the act if you aren't willing to accept the arrest and the punishment as both the price to be paid and the key motivator
    • by sjames (1099)

      Just because they DID go to jail doesn't mean they should have.

      They also did NOT go to jail for years at a time.

    • by JobyOne (1578377)

      The difference is that when you sit in the street or chain yourself to a tree to stop a construction project or disrupt traffic the general public understands what you're doing. A prosecutor might be able to *try* to press terrorism charges, or some other trumped up nonsense, but at the end of the day enough of the public will understand the story to say "wait. He was just sitting in the street." So the crazy-ass charges won't fly for long.

      When you engage in a little hacktivism, though, not enough of the pu

    • by Pseudonym (62607) on Friday January 18, 2013 @05:07PM (#42629721)

      This is one of the key things which distinguishes MLK, Gandhi, Occupy and everyone else who has participated in civil disobedience from piracy.

      A key part of civil disobedience is that you actually take the rap for the law you're breaking. You dare the authorities to arrest you, giving them a choice to enforce an unjust because in doing so, they have to make a choice between enforcing an unjust law or not.

      Piracy is more like everyone (I'd wager there are a few people here) who broke those so-called "sodomy laws", which existed until about ten years ago in the US. Some states, you may recall, actually outlawed certain non-exploitative sex acts between consenting adults carried out in private. (If you're not familiar with the phrase "sodomy law", don't be fooled; some of them outlawed acts which, if you have ever had sex, you have probably done.) In that case, most people who thought about it believed that the most appropriate response to the bad laws is to ignore them.

      Not that I'm advocating this, mind. But there are many pirates who honestly believe that current copyright law is unjust, and rather than stand up, be counted, and take the rap, they choose to just ignore the law in private.

      Anonymous occupies an interesting point between the two.

  • by YodasEvilTwin (2014446) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:31PM (#42628113) Homepage

    You don't necessarily have to a hacker to be viewed as one under federal law...But hacking into private computers, or even spreading the information from a hack, could lead to charges under the CFAA.

    So you do have to hack in order to be a hacker? Or release hacked information? Is there a legal definition of "hacker" and is it as horrible as the one in the mind of whoever wrote this inane summary?

  • by tokencode (1952944) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:31PM (#42628119)
    Things in the virtual world should be treated as their real-world equivalents. DDOS is the same as preventing access to a business, this is illegal in the physical world. You can picket, but you cannot impeded customers' access to the facility. For Doxing, if you steal the information, you are liable. This should be no different in the virtual world. If the info was publically accessible, go for it. If it was obtained illegally, then you have to pay the consequences.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by g0bshiTe (596213)
      Actually tell that to the city when they decide it's time to repave the road in front of your business essentially ddos'ing you IRL.
    • by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:35PM (#42628175) Homepage Journal
      I hate how hard this concept appears to be for so many people - it's so damn obvious, why does the fact it's online make a damn bit of difference? Likewise, if I send a communication to someone, the government shouldn't be able to start looking at it. It's true for post, so why do so many governments keep trying to pretend it shouldn't be so for email?
      • I hate how hard this concept appears to be for so many people - it's so damn obvious

        The problem is in the "equivalents" part...many people see as equivalents things that, in fact, aren't equivalent at all.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:04PM (#42628523) Journal

      Things in the virtual world should be treated as their real-world equivalents.

      There's no law that prevents me from going to a Chick-Fil-A and standing in line, and when I get up to the front to order saying "I'd like... hrm... um.. I would liiiike.... oh yeah, I'd like marriage equality for homosexuals." If I get a few thousand of my friends together to do just that, I've created a real world DDOS that is entirely legal.

      Similarly, there is no law that prevents me from requesting index.html on a site. If I get a few thousand of my friends together to do that, I've done a DDOS. So why should that be illegal?

      • by Golddess (1361003) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:20PM (#42628683)

        If I get a few thousand of my friends together to do just that, I've created a real world DDOS that is entirely legal.

        Until the manager says that all such protesters should GTFO or the cops will be called to deal with a bunch of trespassers.

        • by Hatta (162192) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:27PM (#42628747) Journal

          Sure, but they don't know me from a customer until I wait in line and waste their resources. Once I say "marriage equality" the manager can ask me to leave and I will, but it's too late then.

          • by sycodon (149926)

            It's one thing to make an obnoxious fool of yourself on line, quite another to do it in person.

            Go ahead and do it. Video it and put it on youtube for us all to watch.

            In addition, I highly doubt that any DDOS is the result of thousands of people protesting by going to a site and crashing it. Rather, it's people using a DDOS tool to illegally bring down the site.

        • by pclminion (145572)

          Until the manager says that all such protesters should GTFO or the cops will be called to deal with a bunch of trespassers.

          True, the manager could just say "All potential customers in this building must leave immediately." But that would sort of defeat the point of coming to work.

          And if the manager would like to institute some kind of "political leanings check" for everyone entering the building he can do that too. I doubt paying customers would tolerate it, though.

          Face it. If a big mob of people wants to

          • by Obfuscant (592200)

            True, the manager could just say "All potential customers in this building must leave immediately." But that would sort of defeat the point of coming to work.

            If a thousand people are waiting in line, about the time the tenth one spouts crap about marriage equality instead of conducting legitimate business, closing the business for the day becomes a good business model. Keeping the doors open because you think you have the right to block access of paying customers is creating a physical danger to everyone involved.

            Face it. If a big mob of people wants to disrupt your business, they can do it.

            Face it. The fact that a mob can do something doesn't mean that it is legal for them to do it.

      • If I get a few thousand of my friends together to do that, I've done a DDOS. So why should that be illegal?

        That's a poor analogy. To follow your narrative, it's more like a thousand friends standing in front of the door and not allowing any other customers from entering the store. That, I fear, is illegal in the real world.

      • by Americano (920576)

        There's no law that prevents me from going to a Chick-Fil-A and standing in line, and when I get up to the front to order saying "I'd like... hrm... um.. I would liiiike.... oh yeah, I'd like marriage equality for homosexuals."

        Indeed, there's no law preventing you from doing that. Though why you'd do that, I'm not sure - is Chick-Fil-A part of the federal government now? I guess I missed that article of the Constitution where all laws are made & enforced by a fast food chain.

        What you're blithely ignor

        • by sycodon (149926)

          I would expect that it could also be made plain to the "thousands" in line that if they don't end up ordering something, they'll be immediately arrested for trespassing.

      • by brkello (642429)

        If you do it long enough, you are loitering.

        If you are coordinating a distributed attack on a system and preventing others access, thus damaging a companies ability to do business...then yes, that indeed should be illegal.

        Flip this around and put yourself in the other shoes. Pretend this was your website and was the way that you made money. I'd imagine you would want it to be illegal for someone to take away your ability to run your business.

        There is also a difference between an accidental attack (slashdo

        • by Stiletto (12066)

          If you do it long enough, you are loitering.

          If you are coordinating a distributed attack on a system and preventing others access, thus damaging a companies ability to do business...then yes, that indeed should be illegal.

          But, taking the example of 100 people getting in line at Chick-fil-a, how can you (as the store's management) tell the difference between a hungry customer and one who is participating in this coordinated attack, without waiting for them to get to the register and not order? Do you make it illegal to not order food? How would you even write a law to make such practice illegal?

          Flip this around and put yourself in the other shoes. Pretend this was your website and was the way that you made money. I'd imagine you would want it to be illegal for someone to take away your ability to run your business.

          I would go to great lengths to not provoke someone into or motivate someone to organizing such an attack. People don't just wake up i

          • by Obfuscant (592200) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:55PM (#42629609)

            How would you even write a law to make such practice illegal?

            Easy. It's called "trespass". It's already a law.

            I would go to great lengths to not provoke someone into or motivate someone to organizing such an attack.

            In other words, the only people who have the right to free speech are those who say things you agree with. Otherwise, you'll organize a mob to come stop them from earning a living doing something completely unrelated to whatever opinion it is you don't like.

            • by Stiletto (12066)

              I'm standing in line at Chick-fil-a. Am I trespassing or just thinking about getting a chicken sandwich?

              I get to the register and change my mind, then walk out. Was I trespassing?

              • by Obfuscant (592200)
                You and the few thousand people you called to come help you are "standing in line". You refuse to leave when the property owner tells you to. Yes, you are guilty of trespassing.

                You come to the store with the intent to order something and then change your mind, it is unlikely that you will start spouting political slogans or protesting social injustice at the cashier, so when they tell you to leave, yes, you are trespassing.

                By admitting that it is civil disobedience, you admit that you know you are breakin

          • But, taking the example of 100 people getting in line at Chick-fil-a, how can you (as the store's management) tell the difference between a hungry customer and one who is participating in this coordinated attack, without waiting for them to get to the register and not order? Do you make it illegal to not order food? How would you even write a law to make such practice illegal?

            They don't have too. They can just arrest anyone who doesn't order food or drops out of line before ordering food.

      • There are some major differences.
        1. You are not protesting anonymously, you are actually being more courageous in actually stating this is my view, vs a DDOS where you just go yea Ill click that button too.

        2. Chick-Fil-A can remove you and your friends if they want as well.

        3. You see the scope of what you are doing, you can be sure you are following your personal bounds. In a DDOS you have unleaded chaos akin to it getting violent, or the protest expanding across the street to the doctors office, stopping

      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        /.'ed nuff said~!
      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        There is a law that makes doing that illegal. It's called an "unlawful assembly" which at the time your disruption begins you are guilty of having incited a riot. Looking at max 5 years in pound me in the ass prison.
      • Nope you can totally get sued for what you just described. You can even go to jail. You can go to jail for loitering, disorderly conduct, or resisting arrest. You can be sued under RICO. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations laws are designed to prevent blackmail. Your standing in line protest is a form of blackmail.
      • by westlake (615356)

        There's no law that prevents me from going to a Chick-Fil-A and standing in line, and when I get up to the front to order saying "I'd like... hrm... um.. I would liiiike.... oh yeah, I'd like marriage equality for homosexuals." If I get a few thousand of my friends together to do just that, I've created a real word DDOS that is entirely legal.

        Think again.

        You've just described organizing and leading a campaign that will effectively deny legitimate customers access to a place of business --- elevating a misdemeanor trespassing charge into a felony conviction for conspiracy.

        Chick-Fil-A will. of course, be suing you for damages....

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:14PM (#42629257)

      Also, say you did a DOS on a company, Chances are they are hosting their services at some data center who will be hosting for other organizations as well.

      At my Previous Job, About 1000 Practices lost access to their Electronic Medical Records for a few minutes (as we switched to an other data center) because our primary data center main network router got killed because they were also hosting some Bank that those hackers didn't like.
      Yes you could tout that we could have done a better job at our fail-over method, but that is like blaming an innocent bystanders for getting shot because they didn't think to put on a bullet proof vest that day.

      Expanding you analogy it would be like protesters also blocking entrance to a neighboring business that has nothing to do with the protest.

      Hacktivism is just stupid. For one it could have unintended side effects secondly due to its anonymous nature you are not getting your point across, besides I don't like you.

  • False Dichotomy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Palestrina (715471) * on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:35PM (#42628159) Homepage

    This is a false dichotomy. Something can be both cyber crime and civil disobedience. In fact, that is exactly what civil disobedience is supposed to be. It is not being loud, or annoying, or marching or protesting. Those things are basic 1st Amendment rights.

    Civil disobedience, on the other hand, is intentionally breaking a law that is considered unjust or immoral, in order to draw attention to the injustice. Think of Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr, etc. But note that none of them would break the law and then complain about being charged with the crime. In fact, that was the whole point, being caught, and getting attention.

    • Exactly, we have gotten to the point where people want exceptions made to the law, not in the law itself, but in the enforcement of the law. This is the path to either tyranny or anarchy (more likely the former), because it means that those in charge of deciding who to prosecute get to decide what is and is not a crime. Either the law is a good law and should be enforced against all who break it, or it is a bad law and should be changed.
      • by sycodon (149926)

        You mean like that idiot reporter waving around a 30 round magazine on TV without facing charges vs. some poor schmuck driving through DC with one in his trunk.

      • by DeadCatX2 (950953)

        They already decide who to prosecute. Prosecutors have amazing discretion. For instance, Carmen Ortiz - the lady who handled Mr. Swartz's case - has had settlements with at least three major health care companies where no individual human had to plead guilty to doing anything wrong (in at least one case, not even the company admitted any guilt).

        Face it, Mr. Dimedici. We already have tyrant prosecutors which decide who gets away with what crimes unpunished. I remember reading the words of one Judge who s

    • Re:False Dichotomy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:38PM (#42628879) Homepage

      Well, actually Thoreau's idea when he coined the term "civil disobedience" was to simply disobey such a law. It was Gandhi who noticed the publicity value of disobeying unjust laws and watching the authorities dish out beat-downs to enforce it.

      What's also particularly interesting is that many acts widely seen as civil disobedience were acts that weren't legitimately against the law in the first place. For instance, Martin Luther King's crime in Birmingham was that he walked down a sidewalk in the front of a group of people singing songs (specifically protected by the First Amendment), following traffic laws, towards City Hall. He was arrested only because the local police chief had gotten a court order that said that Martin Luther King wasn't allowed to lead or participate in any act of protest in Birmingham, which wasn't a legitimate order for the court to give but gave the police the excuse they needed.

      Also notable is that not all law-breaking that various political groups engage in is (in my view) civil disobedience. Some left-wing groups, for instance, like to commit crimes like trespassing in order to try to draw attention to a completely unrelated injustice. It usually doesn't work, because (a) the authorities don't do anything stupid like beat them up, (b) they pick targets that don't match what they're trying to protest, (c) their criminal acts don't do anything that would right the injustice, and (d) they don't do it in a way that attracts media attention.

      Also relevant is that completely illegitimate and illegal use of force towards protesters now gets significant support from people who really should know better. For instance, the various cases of police pepper-spraying Occupy Wall Street protesters for the heinous crime of walking down a sidewalk holding signs actually had a lot of people saying how glad they were that the cops were doing that.

  • Exclusive? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by blueg3 (192743) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:35PM (#42628165)

    It's not really civil disobedience unless what you're doing is a crime.

  • I always thought Civil Disobedience was about passively breaking the law, not actively breaking in, so hacktivism doesn't really count as C.D.

    I'm open to being clued-in here....

    • by SirGarlon (845873)

      In the US Civil Rights movement (which happened before I was born), I believe the sit-in [wikipedia.org] protests were actively breaking the law in that the black protesters were legally barred from entering the place. They knowingly entering and remained in a place they were prohibited. Often this was private property and they stayed there after the property owner demanded they leave.

      I would point out that sit-in protests would *still* be illegal: trespassing and disorderly conduct at least (I'm not a lawyer). None they l

      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:47PM (#42628979) Homepage

        The sit-in protesters actually didn't just expect to be arrested. They fully expected to be beaten senseless, and then arrested and jailed, then abused in jail for a while, then lose in court, then go back to jail for a while, then lose whatever college scholarships they had (many of them were students), then be saddled with a criminal record the rest of their life.

        That might give you an idea of how ridiculously brave those people were. Just a thought for the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday.

    • by Abstrackt (609015)

      Civil disobedience can be active or passive; the defining trait is that it is done with the intention of forcing a change. It generally involves being ready to accept the repercussions of one's actions as well. Rosa Parks is the best example I can come up with right now. She knew what what happen if she refused to give up her seat but she chose to take a stand anyway.

  • Why is it news, we've always known hacking was frowned upon and prosecuted. What's the big hairy deal here?
  • Civil disobedience by definition is crime. If it's not a crime, then it's no longer disobedience. It's being a citizen or websurfer consumer or whatever you want to call yourself.
  • It depends... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hrrrg (565259) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:40PM (#42628223)
    Civil disobedience is about making a statement that a law is unjust. Therefore, it has to be done in the open, and you have to take responsibility for your actions. If you are hiding what you are doing, then you're just breaking the law.
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:52PM (#42628389)
    Civil disobedience means breaking the law to protest the injustice of the law. Since the "cyber" part is not in question with hacktivism, it is either:
    • Cybercrime and also civil disobedience, or
    • Cybercrime but not civil disobedience, or
    • Neither cybercrime nor civil disobedience

    The "civil disobedience or cybercrime" dichotomy demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of what "civil disobedience" means.

  • Dr. McCoy (Score:3, Interesting)

    by yawmite (447399) on Friday January 18, 2013 @02:56PM (#42628415)

    How can you get a permit to do an illegal thing? - Dr. McCoy. Star Trek III.

  • by lazarus (2879) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:07PM (#42628547) Journal

    Yes, poor name, but the BBC recently put together a decent documentary about Hacktivists amongst other cyber security topics called The Hackers [bbc.co.uk]. Nothing in it may be news to you but it may be a useful resource for someone you know who doesn't understand the point or how it is done. True to the documentary form, they spent most of it on interviews with the people involved.

  • by j-turkey (187775) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:11PM (#42628595) Homepage
    Cybercrime: what rational people refer to as crime.
    • Cybercrime: what rational people refer to as crime.

      Since when does "rational" imply not being able to understand that, within crime, there are various different crimes which can be by various common features?

  • Of course, there are gray areas there, but generally speaking, if what you do costs the target money? You're probably committing a crime.

  • Civil Disobedience (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Millennium (2451) on Friday January 18, 2013 @03:35PM (#42628845) Homepage

    The real protest in civil disobedience starts when you pay the price, not when you do the deed. This is what gets the dialogue started, this is how you draw sympathy to your cause. The activists of decades past understood this. When exactly did we as a culture forget?

    • by Hatta (162192)

      We as a culture forgot to care about people suffering because of unjust laws. Nobody cares if you're disproportinately punished for your civil disobedience, because "it's the law, hrrr".

  • How about publication of information publicly available on computer servers... say a list of registered hand gun owners in a certain region? Or do the laws only work when its convenient for the people with power?

  • That is quite the unfair comparison, and Aaron Swartz is no Bradley Manning. Aaron Swartz downloaded academic materials that that were otherwise available to the public and hardly secret. Bradley Manning is a traitor that sought to embarrass his country by exposing as many secrets en mass as he could. Manning did significant harm to international diplomatic relations and endangered countless lives. It's a bit like saying a protestor holding a sign is the same as the saboteur derailing a train, it's intellec

  • by sesshomaru (173381) on Friday January 18, 2013 @04:42PM (#42629489) Journal

    If you break the law you are committing a crime, this includes hiding Jews in Nazi Germany or smuggling slaves out of the Antebellum South via the Underground Railway. Yes, breaking bad laws still make you a criminal. I've read commentary saying Aaron Swartz was no Robin Hood, but Robin Hood was considered an extremely vile criminal by law enforcement in his day, if the legend is to be believed.

    Civil Disobedience is one way of disobeying unjust laws. It's where you show open, public contempt for a bad law in the hope that people will see how bad it is. However, it's not the only form of legitimate resistance to unjust laws. In a police state, resisting bad laws anonymously might be the only viable way to protest them. Sometimes that can be civil disobedience too (see "'Repent Harlequin' said the Tick-Tock Man," for a fictional example or some of the plots against Hitler for real life examples).

    Sometimes the purpose of disobeying an unjust law isn't a political protest, but to reduce the harm caused by the law. People who hid Jews under Nazi regimes had no illusions that Der Fuehrer was going to change his mind, they just wanted those particular Jews to be able to avoid being murdered by the State.

    So, some forms of "Hactivism" are public disobedience, some are Anonymous, and some are based on the concept of harm reduction. I'm not sure which version Aaron Swartz was going for, but I don't think it was public disobedience. Some of the rationale I've read from him suggests it was more in the "harm reduction" category, allowing scholars who were being discriminated against in 3rd world countries access to 1st world research.

    I don't think it was worth dying over, though his public suicide does seem to have ended up as a particularly effective form of public disobedience. (Still, it's not going to have much impact on hiding research behind pay-walls. More likely it will end up working against our current draconian computer crime laws, if anything, which was not the actual issue Aaron Swartz was originally trying to address. This is what people are missing, he didn't "win" on the original political issue he was trying to fight though it does seem like JSTOR has given him a partial victory. Rather, the prosecution was so harsh and out of proportion is opened up a whole new set of civil liberty issues related to the case.)

...there can be no public or private virtue unless the foundation of action is the practice of truth. - George Jacob Holyoake

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