In recent years, the combination of activism with computer science has yielded mainly tepid, reformist results. From the rise of ineffectual clicktivism to the blind adoption of commercial networks as the space for organizing protests, there has not been much to celebrate about cyber-activism. This is now beginning to change as a vibrant, visceral form of hacktivism is starting to emerge.
The spontaneous defense of WikiLeaks, where thousands of netizens joined together in an Anonymous multitude and targeted the corporations who stood against the whistleblower website, provided the first catalyst for the evolution of hactivism. The model of an Anonymous horde flooding enemy servers worked well for a time but their failure to takedown Amazon, or to permanently disrupt any of their targets, has shown the tactic to be ultimately lacking. Historically, denial of service has been the primary tactic of electronic civil disobedience. Now, we are seeing instead the politicization of highly-skilled, clandestine hacker groups who are explicitly anti-corporate.
One of the first to arise is LulzSecurity. They have hacked Sony six times in a row and dumped internal code. When the United States declared cyberwar an act of war, LulzSecurity mocked the government by hacking an FBI affiliate. "Hacked websites, corporate infiltration scandal, IRC wars, new hacker groups making global headlines – the 1990s are back!" exclaimed 2600, the oldest and most famous hacker periodical. Despite it all, LulzSecurity's servers remain operational, their twitter feed active, and their hacks ongoing. Anti-corporate cyber-activism is finally a threat.
While LulzSecurity goes on the offensive, others are working to strengthen the security of everyday real world protestors. Responding to the call for a non-commercial, anti-corporate, revolutionary alternative to Facebook, one programmer has released Wire. "In light of the fact that services like Twitter, Facebook, and SMS have been compromised by large companies pandering to government interests," the developer explains, "and the vast amount of arrests of protestors that have been politically motivated and nothing to do with anyone actually doing anything wrong, then having 'evidence' from aforementioned messaging services used against them, I thought it was time for a system that would enable people to communicate … in a secure way, with a variety of options, such as messages self-destructing on receipt, messages that aren't stored on a hard-disk anywhere … and other things one might find in a spy movie." The platform is still in alpha state, but it is already showing great potential. Try it out.
Both LulzSecurity and the Wire are signs that cyber-activism is transforming itself into a fighting force that will one day be a serious asset to citizens as we move to overthrow the corporatocracy.