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Crime and Punishment: The Criminalization of Online Protests

Page history last edited by Paul Nicholas Santos 6 years, 7 months ago

Title of the Essay:     

     Crime and Punishment: The Criminalization of Online Protests, Nikki Williams, September 10, 2015 


Title of the Reflection: 

     Hacktivisim: a Right or a Crime? 


First Impression:  

     The first thing that came into my mind would be Anonymous and what they did in the previous years.  



     “Proponents claim hacktivist actions mirror real-world protests but incur harsher penalties because they are carried out in the online environment. Are they right and are hacktivists indeed treated in a way that violates our notions of justice and fairness?” 


Reflection Proper: 

       What is hacktivism? What is the origin of the said term? Is it ethical to do the said act or should it be considered as an illegal act? In this chapter we are going to talk about hacktivism: what it is and should it be considered as ethical or not.  

     Activism back then was about going to the streets and letting your voice be heard. According to the article named “Crime and Punishment: The Criminalization of Online Protests,” (Williams, 2015) hacktivism is coined after two words, which are hacking and activism; thus, hacktivism is the act of hacking a personal, corporate or governmental website in order for your voice to be heard.  

     Being an activist doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing, like or a person or a group of people who would go out of their way to pester other people by going to the streets or hindering the day-to-day activities of a person, a company or a government in order for their voice to be heard. An activist can be a person or a group of people who would do alternative methods of acting upon what they believe in. A good example of this would be to start a charitable event for our less fortunate brothers and sisters who were hit by a natural calamity or a man-made one, like wars for example.   

     Just like activism, hacking also doesn’t necessarily mean it is a bad thing to do. There are three types of hackers (Hoffman, 2013): Black hats, White hats and Grey Hacks.   

Black Hat hackers are the ones that the media focus on. They would exploit their knowledge of computers for personal gain or to wreak havoc on other people who are using the computer.  They would use DDoS attacks on ip addresses, which is a usual occurrence on online gaming, they would get the personal information of other people, like the Ashley Madison Hack (Zetter, 2015), and so on.   

     White Hat hackers are the opposite of the black hat hackers. Another name for them would be the ethical hackers. Companies would employ white hat hackers in order to see loopholes in their system and find ways in order to mitigate those loopholes and to strengthen the security aspect of their website. They would do this by hacking into the system, with the consent of the company to do so, and telling the company where it needs improvement. They would usually go with security-related companies, like MacAfee or Avast.  

     The Grey hat hackers are the ones who are in between good or bad. They would usually do dubious stuff in order to gain something good from it; however, they wouldn’t hack for personal gain. Although, they don’t abide to what is ethical or not, they would want the community to gain from what they are doing. A good example of this would be when the hackers hacked into the jeep and stopped it on a highway (Greenbarg, 2015).The hackers went inside the system of the jeep, without the consent of the company who created the said car, and controlled it while the driver, who is Andy Greenberg, cannot do anything to stop what the hackers are doing. Through their act of hacking, the hackers made a point to the company that they also need to look into the security aspect of their products in order to prevent “accidents” in the future.    

     Going back to hacktivism, it came out as a response to the changing times.   

     Back then, people would usually go to the streets to vent out their opinion. They would usually build their numbers up first before they go to a specific place at a specific time or a couple of people would go to the event to entice other people to join them in their cause. The event would usually cause a traffic jam in the city, just like here in Metro Manila, Philippines.  

Now-a-days, since people are always connected to the internet, people thought that it would be a great medium for them to and the best way to get the attention of other people would be to pester them and the best way to pester other people would be to hinder their day-to-day process or something that is often seen by other people and the best way to do it online would be to hack the website or to hack the database.  Thus, the term hacktivist is born.  

     A good example of a hacktivist would be the group Anonymous. They would do the dirty work in order to voice out what they believe is right. They went against Scientology (Hopkins, 2013), ISIS (Tzach & Shiloach, 2015) and the United States Government (Hill, 2013). They rallied in front of the Church of Scientology and they would crack down on ISIS insurgent’s internet activity and they defaced the United States’ Department of Justice and hacked files that weren’t supposed to be released to the public.   

     Finally, is it ethical to be a hacktivist? Ethics varies from one person to another and, as for this book, I, the author, will use my views as a standard for what is ethical or not.

     I think that it is wrong to do something unethical to mitigate another unethical act, like Robin Hood stealing money from the king who imposes really high taxes, but being an absolutist in today’s society wouldn’t work. With the changing times that we are in right now and with new ethical issues arising right now, we need to be relativist and weigh which one is the lesser evil among the two.   

     A good example of this would be what Anonymous did with ISIS-related websites. They attacked the said websites and eventually brought a lot of websites down due to the explicit videos that they upload, which shows how they kill infidels. Since I believe that the United States government is also fighting ISIS, tracking down and putting the members of anonymous into prisons would be a wasted resource and a wasted potential in their war against terrorism.  

     Finally, in terms of criminalizing hacktivism, I believe that we need to draw the line on what types of actions are considered criminal act. Instead of having an absolutist ideology and criminalize the whole concept of hacktivism, I believe that we need to have a relativist mindset and utilize their skills and capabilities into doing better acts, like stopping the spread of terrorism online.  


5 Things I’ve learned: 

  1. The term Hacktivism came out from two terms which are hacking and activism. This came out when  
  2. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act wants to criminalize the act of hacking in the United States of America.  
  3. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s stance towards CFAA is to reform the said act through other means like consumer education for example. 
  4. What caused Aaron Swartz’s untimely death was the immense pressure that the US government gave him through the 35 year prison sentence and the $1 million dollar's worth in fines. 
  5. A case wherein the end justifies the means is wrong since trying to solve a wrong with another wrong only makes it worse. 


5 Integrative Questions: 

  1. Should we see hacktivism as illegal? 
  2. Is there a way in which CFAA, if altered, would be acceptable to us? 
  3. In what ways or acts should the EFF take in order for them to be known to the masses? 
  4. Can we equate the penalty given to a person who committed a cybercrime to other types of crimes? 
  5. Does a crime mitigate another crime or does it make it only worse? 


There are 1351 words in this paper.


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