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Research Question

Why is hacktivism often veiled with negative rhetoric and perception in spite of the world’s encouragement of individuals to make a difference and the celebration of political action together with the struggle to advance civil rights?

Theoretical Position

Hacktivism is the rebellious use of computer technology and networks to advance political or social plans and issues. This phenomenon takes place in the current world at an increased rate as compared to the previous decades just after the discovery of computer technology. Realism, as projected by Willard Van Orman Quine, is the view that there is no particular superior credit for reality to natural science. Natural science is a means through which things that exist can be verified through the use of natural human senses such as sight, hearing, taste, and touch. In realism, the emphasis is placed on the aspects of caution and the moderation of the aspirations of an individual. The main aim of the use of the realistic approach is to create an image of life and the world as they are. In this way, the conception of reality takes a cognitive and normative stance, having more influence on the mind of an individual. Thus, realism exemplifies the claim of an actuality that is independent of the beliefs and views of the people regarding it.

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Looking at the perspective of hacktivism from a realistic point of view, it becomes clear that as the development of human beings continues to advance through various means such as technology, there is an increase in the need of the individuals to interact and advocate for their rights. The modern world extensively practices the use of computer technologies and networks in the performance of its day-to-day activities. This advancement has made any failure to use computers extremely sensible practically in every transaction or act of communication.

This situation implies that computer technology has advanced the traditional modes of public and private protesting. Thus, hacktivism arose as a means of political and social self-expression. It allowed sharing of personal discontent for those persons that could not simply face the government and other organizations due to the possible consequences that might be suffered in such a case. These include being prosecuted and convicted for incitement, social disorders, and other politically fabricated accusations.

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Hacktivism, in itself, is an evolutionary movement that arose to incorporate and adapt the means of fighting for and against a diversity of issues faced by the individuals. Some of these issues include the freedom of speech, right to information, and the struggle for the different human liberties that the people feel they are entitled to. Thus, to achieve these aspirations in the world that is consistently undergoing changes, hacktivism arose.


Jordan and Taylor’s book Hacktivism and Cyberwars Rebels with a Cause (2005) will be used to illustrate how hacktivism creates a unique and cultural sensation. The work by Jewkes and Yar will be a basis for providing the explanation why hacktivisim should not be perceived as the Internet crime. Goode’s article “Anonymous and the Political Ethos of Hacktivism” (2015) will be used to analyze the work of a hacktivist group called Anonymous and some of its beliefs. Also, Taylor’s research From Hackers to Hacktivists: Speed Bumps on the Global Highway? (2005) will show the difference between hacking and hacktivism and the advantages of hacktivism over hacking. Colesky, Michael, & Van Niekerk’s work “Hacktivism – Controlling the effects” (2012) will provide the basis for demonstrating the controversy surrounding hacktivism and the impact personal interests have on it. Lastly, Himma’s article “Hacking as Politically Motivated Digital Civil Disobedience: Is Hacktivism Morally Justified?” (2005) will provide a civil disobedience perspective on hacktivism and allow determining whether it is justifiable or not.

Annotated Bibliography

Colesky, Michael, and Johan Van Niekerk. 2012. “Hacktivism – Controlling the Effects.” ZA-WWW,2012 Conference.

With the acknowledgment of the controversy that surrounds the issue of politically inspired cyber-attacks, Colesky and Van Niekerk (2012) explore and analyze the concepts, terminologies and philosophies together with the incentives and justifications of hacktivism and its classes. To do this, they venture out to determine the moral, legal, political and economic consequences of hacktivism. There are many contradicting viewpoints regarding the issue of hacktivism, with both sides lacking a distinctive argument that would easily place them in the winning or dominant position. In cyber-attacks, hacktivism, in particular, there is an extensive generation of hype via both the displaying of naughty and hateful actions and the creation of actively sensible demonstrations (Colesky &Van Niekerk 2012, 4). In the postage or application of both of these conceptual sides, there is often the question of where to draw the line. There should be the consideration of the “greater good” as the primary use of hacktivism. In presenting their argument, Colesky and Van Niekerk (2012) assert that change calls for action. Also, they state that action is, in fact, the tool through change can be introduced. The Internet is simply an additional medium through which the action may be taken. It, however, permits a person the anonymity to take their actions. At the same time, the use of hacktivism bears enormous power in crippling modern organizations and the government. The main concern, however, is whether it should merely be done for individual purposes or the greater good. The use of individual interests then has an effect on the overall position of hacktivism (Colesky &Van Niekerk 2012, 5). It taints it and degrades its role.

From the key aspects, the article presents on the perceptions and justifications for hacktivism, it is relevant to this research. It offers a guide into the understanding of the power and different viewpoints on hacktivism.

Goode, Luke. 2015. “Anonymous and the Political Ethos of Hacktivism.” Popular Communication.13(1): 74-86.

This article makes an examination of the Anonymous hacktivist movement’s philosophy. Particularly, it considers the movement’s sub-cultural roots and the ethical and political values it articulates. One of the perspectives that Anonymous movement represents is its liberal ideology. It also contains a socialist approach perception. The movement is seen as a representation of the voices of its members and their attitudes towards certain political processes and institutions. Its technophilic and digital expertise is foreshown not only in the lifestyles of its members but also as motivation to reshape the society. Originally, the organization was an anime forum, but it came to specialize in contents such as pornography, adolescent inappropriate content, and politically improper humor. It then turned out to be a “carnivalesque celebration” of freedom of speech. “Anonymous hacktivism emerged at the intersection of pranksterism, or “trolling,” and reaction against institutional practices perceived to impinge on the sanctity of free speech” (Goode 2005, 5). Anonymous has also become a perfect platform for hackers to showcase their expertise such as skills in social engineering and technical knowledge. For the moment, hacktivism has taken its place in the progressive digital politics. It is actively used for the purposes of ridiculing and drawing attention to different organizations guilty of suspicious operations and abuse of authority.

Therefore, the above article is relevant to this research due to its depiction of the Anonymous movement. It provides the basic understanding of the first hacktivist group and its actions and motivations thereby helping to understand current hacktivism and its motivations.

Himma, Kenneth E. (2005). “Hacking as Politically Motivated Digital Civil Disobedience: Is Hacktivism Morally Justified?” Social Science Research Network.

In this paper, Himma explores the question of whether and in what circumstances the use of hacktivism, which is described as electronic civil disobedience, is capable of attaining a moralistic acceptance in society. Himma argues on the aspect of civil disobedience in a country that is legitimate in every sense as something that is morally justifiable. It, however, is only applicable in as far as the defined circumstances apply, making civil disobedience only narrowly acceptable (Himma 2005, 3). The author then makes an attempt to find a dependable framework that may be used in the evaluation of civil disobedience. This framework weighs the social and ethical benefits against the social and ethical disvalues of civil disobedience. Finally, the author employs the framework used for the analysis of the civil disobedience’s social and moral ideals and disvalues of the issue and actions of hacktivism. Himma does this to ascertain whether hacktivism may qualify as an act of civil disobedience, or it can be justified. The argument presented by the author is that the use of hacktivism for whatever reasons is only unacceptable when such actions do not cause substantial harm to blameless third parties (Himma 2005, 5). He also concludes that hacktivism may be unjustifiable to the extent that the individuals that are accountable for such actions make sure to mask their identities to get away from any possible legal consequences.

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The discussion of the social and moral values and disadvantages in this article is relevant to the future research because it presents an analytical approach that reflects the practical and realistic manner through which the acts of hacktivism may be portrayed.

Jewkes, Yvonne, and Majid Yar. 2010. Handbook of Internet Crime. London/ New York, NY: Routledge.

The book notes that one of the remarkable features of the latest public interactions via the Internet is its extensive use by various activists and social groups, for example, Mexico’s Zapatista movement and the anti-globalization activists against the World Trade Organization among others. These groups which are inclusive of the hacktivits concentrate on the new dimension of collective action. They are able to differentiate between real actions that were reinforced and enabled by the Internet and Internet- based virtual actions. It, therefore, lists hacktivist movements to fall under activists who fight for issues facing the society such as oppressive trade practices.

Due to increasing public disconnection from the official political processes and institutions, the Internet has become a special platform, where the civil, political, and social interaction can be advanced. Hacktivism is one of the ways through which different protest groups set up online petitions or create protest websites. The authors, however, note that hacktivism is regularly referred to as cyber-terrorism. They argue that it should be viewed as a means of self-expression that transmits the message of the protestors, allowing their grievances to be addressed.

Jordan, Tim, and Paul Taylor. 2004. Hacktivism and Cyberwars Rebels with a Cause. New York, NY: Routledge.

The presence of the political protest is inherent almost to all societies. Self-activities of the individuals indicate their desire to influence and control their lives and environments. This aspiration is present even in the situations being outside the sphere of influence of this particular person or in the conditions that have not been the issue of personal choice. This desire and its ever-present restrictions have become manifested in the space of virtual life. It is reflected both in attempts to influence cyberspace and, respectively, the impact of the latter on offline lives of the people. Thus, according to Jordan and Taylor, hacktivism can be considered as the development of a political action based on self-actions of the individuals in cyberspace. It comprises of local political protests by the use of computer hacking. It takes place within the fabric of cyberspace, fighting over what is technologically probable in virtual lives. However, it also reaches out to the society through applying virtual powers in molding offline life.

Since social movements and famous protests are common and essential parts of societies in the 21st century, hacktivism can, therefore, be called activism through electronic means. While movements aimed at defending cyberspace have been present for a while, the development of famous protests within the Internet is a recent phenomenon. It also viewed as the development of virtual direct conducts. However, it should be noted that hacktivism is not an indication of any politics related with cyberspace. Instead, its emergence at the beginning of the 21st century is a unique social and cultural sensation, in which famous politics of direct conducts have been interpreted into virtual realms. This, however, does not imply that other types of famous or social movement do not exist in cyberspace.

Thus, based on the overview of the book’s main concepts, it can be stated that it is particularly relevant to the research. It provides a better understanding of the notion of hacktivism as a cyber- and socially-related phenomenon.

Taylor, Paul. A. 2005. “From Hackers to Hacktivists: Speed Bumps on the Global Highway?” New Media and Society. 7(5): 625-646.

This article traces the development of the new social movement of hacktivism from hacking and investigates its prospects as a source of technologically-facilitated radical political acts. It makes an assessment of hacktivism in relation to main theories of technology and interrogates the possibility of re-engineering mechanical systems to more civilized ends. Hacking, which preceded hacktivism, is illustrated as containing parasitical aspects that avail a barrier to objectives that have a political orientation. However, the article provides proof that these objectives find its relevance within hacktivism. Its alternate conceptualization of the human-technology relation is investigated in regard to the alleged development, which is reflected in the conceptualization of networks to webs that include new means of demonstrating online solidarity and organizing campaigns against the activities of global capital.

Hacking has been presented as the search for a technological way and a termination in itself. Hacktivism, on the other hand, is viewed “as a refocusing upon the political nature of the end to which technological means should be put” (Taylor 2005, 12). The article also makes an exploration of the politically-related status of hacktivism. It is also contrasted with hacking that is demonstrated as having failed in developing the radical probability of its original aspect of human inventiveness over technological systems and is heavily criticized.

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