Tuesday, February 07, 2012

CBC's Take on Hacktivism

I read an interesting article today about 'hacktivism' at CBC's website.  I like the idea that there are social/political/technological forces bringing power to the people in a way that might offset the anti-democratic forces that seem to be embodied by the growing corporate influence on government.  Of particular interest to me were statements by Molly Sauter, a researcher at the Center for Civic Media at MIT, that distributed denial of service (DDoS) are coming to be seen as being prosecuted too harshly.  From the CBC article...
Several people in the United States and Britain were arrested and charged in relation to the WikiLeaks-related DDoS attacks on PayPal and the credit card companies, which could lead to a court challenge of computer laws that many observers, including Sauter, view as overly restrictive.
Sauter noted that demonstrators arrested at a protest in the United States such as the Occupy movement's events are rarely charged or prosecuted, but a politically motivated DDoS attack is deemed a felony on par with the same attack for the purposes of extortion.
Sauter blamed the broad language in the [US] Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which she said has led to prosecutors "overreaching" in DDoS protest cases.
"You are seeing prosecution of acts of digital activism that are being prosecuted as computer crimes, not as acts of political speech, which is chilling and, in my opinion, incredibly misguided," she said.
Germany has already recognized in its court system that DDoS attacks can be a form of valid political protest, she said.
"We haven’t seen this type of jurisprudence in this country yet," she said. "I have a certain amount of hope that it will happen, but I'm not holding my breath."
I believe it is a valid form of protest that a group of people might show up at a street corner and block traffic.  I believe that people should have a right to do this same thing at a web site.

Read the whole article

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