Examining the Effectiveness of Hacktivism in its Role

Tim Jordan’s essay addresses the very same concern that I had with the premise of hacktivism: that the message can be unclear and the protest form unrecognized. Particularly in terms of the DOS (denial of service) attacks. DOS attacks aim to slow or completely stop the targeted computers or targeted websites. We saw an example of this intention in one of our application pieces: http://www.businessinsider.com/anonymous-facebook-2011-8. In this article we are prepared for the coming of a hacker group’s ‘destruction’ of Facebook, an act motivated by the need to repossess our privacy and personal information. However, at the end of the article, it indicated that this destruction would appear in the form of a DOS. I logged into Facebook on the day that this attack was supposed to take place and I had no problem accessing the site, nor did I register any lag. Perhaps this is because when I was using Facebook the ‘attack’ had already taken place, or had yet to. But my point is that if the attack already occurred, what trace of it is left behind? If there is no physical trace, how well will it be remembered and thus, effective in delivering its message? And referring back to my previous concern, how will users recognize that the DOS was a protest and not just a DOS?

In my opinion, hacktivism exploits are much less effective in their ability to communicate to the common user than conventional real world activism. Maybe it will make a statement to the targeted organization, group, or company, but this statement cannot be as bold or as powerful unless it reaches the people. And as Jordan points out, there are no people passing by during an online attack like there are during physical protests. Take the Occupy Wall Street movements (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jW8j-JMi0c&feature=relate). These actions are powerful because they can be seen, heard, recorded, photographed, observed, inclusive, and intrusive of real spaces. Most importantly, the everyday people embody these protests, while only technical insider groups initiate hacktivism approaches. This is a significant difference because I believe that if activism is supposed to benefit the larger society, the larger society needs to be able to contribute to its proceedings, a proposal that does not seem operational within hacktivism.



  1. Your argument of the importance of presence is valid. Though some feelings of solidarity are in fact lost through online activism, a broader access levels this problem. For example, the hacktivist group Anonymous worked with transnationality to deal with protests going on over seas which allowed for international participation. It allowed those who were not able to participate to voice their opinion and attempt to join in this solidarity by protesting virtually. See below:

    2009 Iranian election protests:
    “Following allegations of vote rigging after the results of the June 2009 Iranian presidential election were announced, declaring Iran’s incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the winner, thousands of Iranians participated in demonstrations. Anonymous, together with The Pirate Bay and various Iranian hackers, launched an Iranian Green Party Support site called Anonymous Iran.

    The site has drawn over 22,000 supporters world wide and allows for information exchange between the world and Iran, despite attempts by the Iranian government to censor news about the riots on the internet. The site provides resources and support to Iranians who are protesting….”

    Although the Occupy movement is occurring in real time, it was started online by the group Anonymous. It is largely thought of as #occupywallstreet, using the tag from twitter. The majority of organization of the movement occurs online, and has transcended national boundaries due to this digital presence. The Anonymous twitter and blog is thought of as the news base for information on the protesting and future action to be taken.


  2. sophiapelka’s examples (very good examples, BTW) point to the clearest, and perhaps most important, way that hacktivism can make a difference: by integrating digital and nondigital facets into a whole. While it’s possible the occupy movement may have spread without its high level of digital awareness, it has certainly relied on its online presence to coordinate activities.


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