Week 5: Cyber(h)activism


In this weeks lecture we learnt about cyberactivism which is a form of activism online. We watched a BBC documentary on the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. Who is an Australian hacktivist notorious for releasing private documents and data to the public that would otherwise be kept secret by the government.
In the lecture it was explained that a hacker is a person who users a computer to gain unauthorised access to data whilst a hackivist is a person who hacks a computer system to bring attention to a political group or cause.
A group of hackivists could therefore be Anonymous. They famously wear the Guy Faulkes mask that represents freedom and are described as “digital Robin Hoods or CyberTerrorists” by some people.
This has also been described as electronic warfare. After the lecture I began to think about my own experience with cyberactivism and remembered the viral video of Kony 2012.

This video was hugely successful and went viral by itself because of its powerful message, call to action and effective use of primary rhetorical tools pathos, logos and ethos.
However, the campaign was soon questioned as a fake and fraudulent because of the low action taken after it’s initial launch.
It seemed to have failed because people couldn’t witness the result or where their money from donations were going to. Were they going to the children in need or just to the organisation?
While this was a call to arms for action it seemed to have failed when it went viral and people became frustrated as a result.
But many people failed to see that the organisation just wasn’t ready for such traffic. 120 million views in 5 days with a working staff of under ten people. That’s a lot of work and Public Relations to handle.
Many charities and non-for-profit organisations use cyberactivism in this form. PETA and RSPCA fight against animal cruelty and encourage users to hashtag, share and donate when they see a shocking image or something outrageous that is cruel and unfair.
It seems the algorithm now works solely on outrage and plunges deeper and deeper into these shocking images to move something within us to take action and press that share button.
“I share therefore I am.”
However, these people are not hackers or involved in hacktivism.
Hacktivism involves the hacking of computer systems, for a politically or socially motivated purpose (SearchSecurity, 2017).
A hacktivist uses the same tools and techniques that a hacker would use, but they do so in order to bring attention to a greater political or social cause (Denning, 2017).
The main differences between hackers and hacktivists is that hacktivists use illegal and unethical procedures to collect and distribute classified information. Such is the case with Julian Assange.



Biography.com. (2017). Julian Assange. (Accessed 7 August 2017). https://www.biography.com/people/julian-assange-20688499

Denning, D. (2017). The Rise of Hacktivism. (Accessed 7 August 2017). http://journal.georgetown.edu/the-rise-of-hacktivism/

Kony 2012, (2012), viewed on 7 August 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Pangburn, D. (2011)  “Digital Activism From Anonymous to Occupy Wall Street: a Conversation With Gabriella Coleman”.  http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/157192/digital-activism-from-anonymous-to-occupy-wall-street-a-conversation-with-gabriella-coleman/ 

SearchSecurity. (2017). What is hacktivism? – Definition from WhatIs.com. (Accessed 7 Aug. 2017). http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/hacktivism



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