Sociology Index


Electronic Civil Disobedience, Computerized Activism, Political Activism,

Hacktivism is a open-source phenomenon. Hacking plus activism makes hacktivism. Hacktivism is hacking for a political cause. Hacktivism, according to information security researcher Dorothy Denning, is "the marriage of hacking and activism." Acts of hacktivism generally obstruct normal computer activity in some way. According to the New Hacker's Dictionary, a hacker is "a person who enjoys exploring the details of programmable systems and how to stretch their capabilities" and one who is capable of "creatively overcoming or circumventing limitations". Hacktivism is hacking, or creating technology to achieve a political or social goal.

Hacktivism is the use of one's ingenuity to circumvent limitations, to hack clever solutions to complex problems using computer and Internet technology. "Hacker" was originally a term that encapsulated an individual's understanding of computer systems and networks and the ability to modify and refine such systems. Hacker ethic formulated by Steven Levy in his 1984 book "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" outlines the hacker tenets:

1. Access to computers should be unlimited and total.
2. All information should be free.
3. Mistrust authority - promote decentralization.
4. Hackers should be judged by their hacking not criteria such as degrees, age, race, or position.
5. You create art and beauty on a computer.
6. Computers can change your life for the better.

The GNU/Linux operating system evolved from this hacker ethic. As fellow hackers from the MIT AI lab were lured into commercial ventures Richard Stallman became increasingly concerned about the decay of the hacker community and the increasing control being exerted over proprietary code. Stallman decided to create a free operating system modeled after the proprietary UNIX system.
Linus Torvalds began development on a kernel and released the initial source code for his kernel, named Linux. Together the work of Stallman and Linus form the GNU/Linux operating system. This software is released under the General Public License (GPL), which is known as "copyleft" as opposed to copyright. The GPL allows users to modify and copy the software as long as they make the source freely available to others.

Hackers abhor censorship. Censorship is often seen as a human rights violation, especially when it is combined with a repressive, governing regime. In addition, hackers mistrust restrictive legislation that encroaches on free access to information and cherished electronic privacy. Thus a natural aversion to repressive governments and predatory, private institutions has developed. In Phrack magazine, Dr. Crash explains that computer technology is being misused not by hackers but by governments and corporations:
The wonderful device meant to enrich life has become a weapon which dehumanizes people. To the government and large businesses, people are no more than disk space, and the government doesn't use computers to arrange aid for the poor, but to control nuclear death weapons.
There is a trend within hacker culture that not only focuses on technical aspects of computing but political aspects as well.
In the "Hacker's Manifesto" the mentor explains: We make use of a service already existing without paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's for our own good, yet we're the criminals.
There is an antagonism between government/corporate restrictions and domination of computer technology and hackers who want to ensure free access to information, to circumvent censorship, and to prevent monopoly control of technology.