When we think of hacking, we have an instant negative reaction. You’d be forgiven for thinking this, as society deems the word ‘hack’ as bad. However, hacktivism is being carried out as a way to claim back the distributed network. With the digital era continually advancing there is evidence of limited control in the hacking world. The question is whether or not it is being used by the right people.

An example showing both a negative use of hacking and a positive is an article by renowned hactivists, Anonymous that claims ‘Edward Snowden Says One Text Can Hack Smartphones’. The post shows Snowden’s knowledge of the Government’s alleged techniques to spy on citizens.  It is evident in this blog that the hacker subculture can be used in different forms- control/ power, anarchism, resistance, playfulness and activism. In Snowden’s case he uses it as a response of political activism vs. Government control/ power.

However, this is not to say that playful forms of hacking don’t have negative responses. This year the world saw the infamous Avid Life Media’s website Ashley Madison, hacked. This resulted in personal account information like e-mail addresses from 32 million of the site’s members being revealed online. These attackers are the whistle-blowers of the public sphere, bringing moral resistance to the forefront. They claimed they had two motivations behind the hacking scandal, first criticizing ‘Ashley Madison’s core mission of arranging affairs between married individuals. Second, they’ve attacked Ashley Madison’s business practices, in particular its requirement that users pay $19 for the privilege of deleting all their data from the site (but, as it turns out, not all data was scrubbed).’


Both these examples are evidence of the power that new technological advancement is threatening censorship and online regulation. When we compare the two forms of hacking what do we see? We see new networking models being developed. Benkler (2011) says these examples force us to ‘ask us how comfortable we are with the actual shape of democratization created by the Internet.’

This is true, hactivists are showing a new form of political resistance. They are contributing to a world where internet censorship could be non-existent. The thought of this world is scary, yet thrilling and the more it exposed the greater the support from the community it will receive.


Benkler, Y. (2011) ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, [pp. 1-33]


3 thoughts on “HACKING A HACKER’S MIND

  1. Interesting blog. It is kind of scary when you think of how easy it is for information to be accessed and spread. We lull ourselves into a false sense of security when we sign up to websites believing that any private information that we put on the website will be stored safely and not used against us. I do believe that the internet should be a place of free speech, a place free of censorship where users are aloud to self moderate their own information and websites the way they want to. This does come with drawbacks as you have explored. It might sound contradictory, but when it comes to personal information I think there is a line that needs to be drawn in the sand. If you have used a site that states your information will be protected then you have a right to believe this will be the case and for someone to hack the website and release this information, well then this is not ok. I don’t think persecuting those who release personal details is wrong even if it goes against what free speech is all about. I certainly hope that my website Admit2It is never hacked as those that have sent in their secrets have done so believing that they will remain anonymous and it would be a massive breach of trust if their identities ever got out. Good work.


  2. Hi, this is a great post! I really enjoyed your take on hacktavism and how it can be both positive and negative. I feel this is a really interesting time for the internet, where its state is contributing to this hacking culture, and such hactavism acts are in turn shaping the internet. For example, people such as Snowden and Assange have released information under the ideology that ‘information wants to be free’. However, in doing so they have created a sort of panic, forcing governments to introduce new regulations to stop such events.
    Here is an interesting article on Snowden that takes the stance of him being the good guy, or “Hero”:http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/why-edward-snowden-is-a-hero


  3. I like the way you weighed out the positive and the negative lights of hacking, and you are definitely right in that people have that knee-jerk reaction to the word ‘hack=bad’, I find myself in that category too. All you hear about is the bad, the bad is what sticks in your mind and, unfortunately, i’ve only experienced the bad. Your post did well in reminding me that’s not always the case.


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