Hacktivism and How It Got Here


NEW YORK -- Hacktivism isn't found in the graffiti on defaced Web pages, in e-mail viruses bearing political screeds or in smug take-downs of government or organizational networks.

These sorts of activities are nothing more than reverse censorship and

*****"the same old cheap hacks elevated to political protest," "*****

according to Cult of the Dead Cow member Oxblood Ruffin.

Hacktivism, as defined by the Cult of the Dead Cow, the group of hackers and artists who coined the phrase, was intended to refer to the development and use of technology to foster human rights and the open exchange of information.

Speaking this past weekend at the Hackers on Planet Earth gathering, Ruffin pointed to the growing partnership against censorship between hackers, human rights activists and the academic community as proof that real hacktivism -- grass-roots resistance enabled by technology -- is a viable way to battle repression.

The general idea of hacktivism was first articulated by John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in his 1996 "Declaration of Independence in Cyberspace."

But no one called technology-enabled political activism "hacktivism" until 1998, when cDc members Omega, Reid Fleming and Ruffin were chatting online and were, Ruffin said, "bouncing some wacky ideas around about hacking and political liberation, mostly in the context of working with Chinese hackers post-Tiananmen Square."