This opinion piece was written by student Alexander Agbulos.
Hacktivism is the concept of “hacking” into a computer system in order to convey a social justice message or commence a movement. Hacktivist groups, such as Anonymous or Lulzsec are infamous for these cyberattacks – they have even been deemed “the new guardians of our civil liberties” (as well as “the internet hate machine”) – because of their exposure of government secrets and lies. But should these vigilantes be praised or vilified? Many approve of their methods, donning Guy Fawkes masks and joining the cult, while others deem it narcissistic.
For instance, a heated debate continues today over the actions of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. By leaking confidential USA government surveillance programs, Snowden risked his life, but is considered a traitor since he broke the law in doing so. However, “the law” can be justified with 2 sides of the same coin i.e. slavery. Slavery was an unjust moment in history but was legal for a long time until it was abolished. However, it should never have existed in the first place since the Declaration of Independence explicitly claimed that “all men are created equal”. In other words, just because it is the law, does not mean it is legal – the safest hands are still our own.
Maybe hacktivists such as Snowden or Anonymous are over emotional, but their actions impact the community in a diverse way. Sometimes, action requires to step outside of the law in order to have it conveyed for the greater good. Since not everyone is able to project their ideals through a government connection, civil action becomes necessary. Although it seems like anarchy, hacktivists can be seen as the hero over an anarchist because they open the door for legal action. Perhaps they really are “the new guardians of our civil liberties.”
Thanks for contributing to the Seidenberg School blog, Alexander!