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The Internet Politics Your Rights Online

From Anonymous To Shuttered Websites, the Evolution of Online Protest 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the screaming-into-the-abyss dept.
silentbrad sends this excerpt from the CBC: "The days of screaming activists marching with signs in hand to voice their displeasure at a particular politician are changing rapidly – just ask Vic Toews. Canada's public safety minister was the latest in a string of public-policy lightning rods to feel the wrath of Anonymous, a loose coalition of web-based activists who went after Toews for his overly vociferous promoting of the government's online surveillance bill. ... Graeme Hirst, a professor of computational linguistics at the University of Toronto, says that while Anonymous does share some properties of older protest movements, sometimes its motives can be called into question. 'It's a kind of civil disobedience, so we can immediately make analogies to the Civil Rights movement of the '60s,' Hirst said in an interview. 'On the other hand, it's not entirely clear that Anonymous is as altruistically motivated as those protests were.' ... Hirst viewed the January showdown as 'the first legitimate online protest' that was really only about the online world and suggested that the key to its success was that it was organized not by individuals but by organizations — and ones with clout. ... Another apparently successful online campaign was the Cost of Knowledge protest started by an international group of researchers in January, following a blog post by Cambridge University math professor Timothy Gowers."
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From Anonymous To Shuttered Websites, the Evolution of Online Protest

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  • by CimmerianX (2478270) on Friday March 16, 2012 @12:58PM (#39380375)

    >>Hirst viewed the January showdown as 'the first legitimate online protest' that was really only about the online world and suggested that the key to its success was that it was organized not by individuals but by organizations

    So when big entities and businesses want to protest, that's fine.
    When the little man wants to protest via non-violent, civil disobedience, that's not only illegal (by design all civil disobedience is illegal), but it's also immoral and evil??

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Except "Anonymous" is not being civilly disobedient. They're being a band of thugs whose cause most internet users just happen to agree with.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        based on what, exactly? What makes them thugs?

        DDOS'ing a website? Because that is actually called civil disobedience.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:28PM (#39380693) Homepage

        Civil disobedience usually results in a slight inconvenience, a small percentage of lost profits, and most importantly, high visibility for the chosen cause.

        A DDoS, document theft, or slander campaign results in a destroyed career, ruined business, and a poorly-edited headline on a nerd's news site.

        Anonymous is as much an activist group as I am a turnip.

        • by jythie (914043)
          DDoS generally qualify as a slight inconvenience, esp against big sites and agencies.
          • by poity (465672) on Friday March 16, 2012 @02:37PM (#39381715)

            Civil disobedience isn't just disruption. Civil disobedience entails the breaking of laws such that one's subsequent arrest/prosecution can reveal the injustice of those laws to the public, which then brings about a change in the social/political atmosphere, leading to progress. The intent of black students to sit in white only restaurants was not to punish those restaurant owners who may have supported segregation laws; their intent was to put a spotlight on the unequal treatment despite claims of "separate but equal." That's how you practice civil disobedience -- by targeting specifically unjust laws, breaking them, and exposing them to the public

            Now compare with Anonymous, what laws did they break in an attempt to reveal their injustice? They only broke fraud and network intrusion laws. Does that mean they were against fraud and network intrusion laws out of the belief that those laws were unjust? There is no way one can logically compare Anonymous with historical examples of civil disobedience.

            • by Dan541 (1032000)

              Also Anonymous by its very definition is a cowards movement. These people have no intention of being caught and held to account.

              • by jmcvetta (153563)

                What kind of brain dead idiot would intend to get tossed in the gulag, and likely tortured?

                • by Dan541 (1032000)

                  People like Gandhi and Nelson Mandella and Martin Luther King who stood up for what they believe.

                  Anonymous are nothing more than criminals running from the law.

                  • by jmcvetta (153563)

                    People like Gandhi and Nelson Mandella and Martin Luther King who stood up for what they believe.

                    Mandela certainly and Gandhi afaik didn't intend to get tossed in a dungeon. MLK did plan and participate in some intentional arrests. They were very public arrests, a useful tactic in that time and context for gaining public support. The arrested protesters were rarely given long sentences, and always tried in open court. There is no reason at all to suppose Dr King would have wanted himself or anyone else tossed in the gulag for years.

                    Anonymous are nothing more than criminals running from the law.

                    Did you have to work overtime because of a DDoS attack or something

                    • by Dan541 (1032000)

                      Did you have to work overtime because of a DDoS attack or something?

                      Nope, but neither do I work overtime for the bank getting held up down the street.

                    • by jmcvetta (153563)

                      Oh c'mon, you know that's a totally bogus analogy. More like a bunch of hippies holding each others arms and blocking the door to the bank. Annoying as fuck if you're the bank manager or you need to make a deposit, but not even slightly similar to armed robbery.

                    • by Dan541 (1032000)

                      I never made such an analogy.
                      I never said they were the same thing, only that the effect on me is the same.

                      Your straw-man failed.

                    • by jmcvetta (153563)

                      I never said they were the same thing, only that the effect on me is the same.

                      Actually you didn't say that either. You just asserted that neither anonymous internet users nor bank robbers cause you work overtime. Congrats on that, I guess.

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          DDoS does not destroy careers or ruin businesses. That's ridiculous. At most it may incur a small loss of profits for that 1 day, which fits your definition of "civil disobedience".

          • by Sarten-X (1102295)

            I take it you've never been on the receiving end of an attack, then? Management doesn't likely understand details. All they know is that the public website was down for several hours, and the IT department hardly did anything about it. Blame gets passed and people get fired. Then there's the trickle-down effect, where not only does Mastercard (for example) suffer problems from having services out, but every mom-and-pop vendor that processes credit cards through them can't take payments.

            Part of what makes ci

            • by cpu6502 (1960974)

              >>>Blame gets passed and people get fired.

              Then you work for a shitty company. You should be look forward to working for a better company that understands DDoS attacks cannot really be prevented, anymore than you can prevent a UPS truck carrying an important part from getting T-boned by a careless passenger car driver & the part getting delayed 1-2 days because of it.

              Shit happens. Good managers understand this. Lousy managers do not, and if they truly will "ruin your career" because of someth

              • >>>Blame gets passed and people get fired.

                Then you work for a shitty company. You should be look forward to working for a better company that understands DDoS attacks cannot really be prevented

                Which company do you work for that has management THAT reasonable??? I wanna apply for a job!!!

            • by Dan541 (1032000)

              Anonymous is more of a extortionist outfit.

              "Do what we want, or else...."

          • by Dan541 (1032000)

            DDoS is a form of censorship.

            Leaking someone's personal information does destroy businesses and careers. In some cases it can even lead to death.

        • by billcopc (196330)

          When you are a politician, you are a public figure. Public figures are, by law, fair targets for public criticism.

          Vic Toews is pissing off the entire country, with the exception of a handful of extreme right-wingers and corporatists. He is pushing a bill that is widely perceived as overreaching and unnecessary. He is spreading false truths and flawed analogies to justify his actions, dismissing public opinion, and basically labeling us all as potential criminals who "side with pedophiles".

          We've tried to

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      It's called ignorance.

      Hirst has absolutely no idea what he's talking about.

      It's not the organizations that do or can carry the weight, it was the individuals in this case.

    • It is the nature of protest. When you fight the system you are fighting what the establishment has established as what is right. Very few evil rules go "Mahahahahahaah", dress in black and have a note in their agenda, be evil. Most evil people thought THEY were the good ones. So, when people fought slavery, they were the terrorists going what was clearly right. Only when they won, did the view change.

      History is written by the victors and their is NO definitive version of it, when the victors change, the his

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Big businesses are people too!
      Little men, not so much. That's why we call them "little."

  • In a nutshell (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:00PM (#39380391)

    Vic Toews tried to bring in legislation that would allow the police, or any designated authority by the ministry, to spy on any internet communications without a warrant. In an interview, Toews then admitted that he had not actually read the legislation, and tried to lie and say that there were no such provisions in the bill (proposed act of legislation).

    Anonymous didn't like this, and decided to spy on Vic Toews, releasing personal information about the Minister of "Public Safety" and his multiple indiscretions, including baby-sitters, mistresses, and judges that he nominated while Minister of Justice.

    All the whilst, the Conservative (see "Republican") government is under investigation for election fraud for having identified members of other parties, then sending them robocalls telling them that their polling (voting) location had changed to a ficticious location. This resulted in close ridings (electoral districts) being taken by the Conservatives when elderly voters were unable to find the correct location to vote! (source: CBC News [www.cbc.ca])

    • by zill (1690130)

      the Conservative (see "Republican") government

      Comparing the Conservatives to Republicans is like comparing the tortoise to the hare. The Tories support universal heath care and same sex marriage, so that makes them even more left-leaning than the Democrats socially.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Wrong, and wrong:

        1) Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, formerly was leader of the "National Citizens Coalition", a right wing think tank that supports private healthcare. (source: Macleans [macleans.ca]

        2) In April, a Conservative Member of Parliament will bring forward a motion that will define a fetus as a "person" and would effectively make abortion akin to homicide. (source: Ottawa Citizen [ottawacitizen.com]

        • by zill (1690130)
          1)Stephen Harper, like all politicians, flip flop more than an IHOP. He may have been against universal heath care in the past but it's only his stance as the leader of the Conservative party that matters in the current discussion.

          2) What does abortion have to do with same sex marriage? Why are we discussing future events? Since when does a private member's bill represent his party?
          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Stephen Harper, like all politicians, flip flop more than an IHOP. He may have been against universal heath care in the past but it's only his stance as the leader of the Conservative party that matters in the current discussion.

            Incorrect. Harper is a brilliant politician (!= leader unfortunately). He goes the way the wind blows. Since he knows opposing universal health care would never get him a majority government (he'd probably even lose his status as prime minister), Considering it's one of the few dif

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Republicans support universal health care too. After all they were the ones who originally proposed the "universal insurance purchase" mandate (through the Heritage Foundation). And also passed the Prescription Drug Plan under Bush's watch. And continue to support Medicare/Medicaid.

        They don't support same-sex marriage (because most Republican voters are Christians).

    • by davecb (6526)

      The "Conservatives" of today are, alas, something of a wholly owned subsidiary of the Reform Party, who were really quite far right of the Republicans. The "Progressive Conservatives" were perhaps a little to the center/left relative to the Republicans. It was the PCs who supported universal health insurance and other center-to-left initiatives.

      Confusing the two can lead one to self-contradictory conclusions (;-))

      --dave

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:04PM (#39380421)
    The way that a lot of websites blacked out their sites in protest of the SOPA bill was very powerful.
    1. They Protested a particular thing.
    2. People knew what they are protesting against.
    3. The Protest was done at the risk of the protesters. Blacking out your site for a day could loose customers.

    Anonymous on the other hand is Stupid protesting.
    1. Their protest is sparse and could be about a lot of things possible contradictory.
    2. People usually can only guess what they are protesting about.
    3. Protesters are hiding under the vale of anonymity so they will not loose their jobs/reputation the next day.

    The problem there are just too much stupid protests out there. Not that their goals are not worthy of protesting but they are just stupid in their protest.
    When ever an activist group targets to correct too many points they rarely get done.
    For example CFC were hurting the Ozone layer. The found a good solution to replace it and they protested to get CFC banned. It was an easy sell.
    Carbon is causing global warming... Well we don't have a good way of reducing carbon yet, and protesters are protesting a wide variety of untested methods of reducing carbon, as well they will protest against alternatives such as nuclear.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      3. Protesters are hiding under the vale of anonymity so they will not loose their jobs/reputation the next day.

      Because real-life protestors never wear masks or otherwise conceal their identities!

      • Yes but if they got arrested that mask will be removed. Anonymous is behind many layers making it very hard to be found.
    • by MarkvW (1037596)

      We can always hope that Anonymous is like a stupid, weak virus that we can overcome with processes and regulations that are not too restrictive.

      Better than getting hit with really bad and dangerous people, then risking the extreme overreaction that is characteristic of the United States and most Western governments.

      • Anonymous as a protest group is a stupid method for causing real change. Not the people are stupid, they just didn't fully think about how doing what they are doing will effect any real change.
    • The way that a lot of websites blacked out their sites in protest of the SOPA bill was very powerful.
      1. They Protested a particular thing.
      2. People knew what they are protesting against.
      3. The Protest was done at the risk of the protesters. Blacking out your site for a day could loose customers.

      The way that Anonymous (aka Someone) protests is equally as powerful.
      1. They are merely diverse individuals, so it takes many like minded individuals having the same opinion of a particular thing.
      2. Nobody know WTF the SOPA protests were about -- Average folk questioned the hell out of me on that day, despite links to the bill... Protip: Big Media is responsible for informing our masses. Guess what? They ALWAYS fail to fill in Joe Sixpack as to the specifics.
      3. Anonymous Protests are done at the risk

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Blacking out your site for a day could loose customers.

      If you're keeping your customers captive then of course you should loose them. Or did you mean that other verb, "lose"?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Never trust anyone to tell you anything about online protests if they think online protests started in the last decade. If they can't be bothered to research things that happened before then, they aren't very knowledgeable.

  • Before, the easiest way to be heard was to walk outside and start screaming with signs.
    With the arrival of the internet, it's much easier to have your voice heard, so many of the screams and signs have been digitized.
    • It's also easier to censor and spin IRL protests as journalists become increasingly pussified, and the few who aren't are easily ignored by the mainstream news.

  • this is a great tactic anonymous has pioneered

    but what is good for the goose is good for the gander: you could monetize this sort of activity for all sorts of malicious purposes

  • Ethical DDoS protest (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bogtha (906264) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:25PM (#39380657)

    I think I recall Stallman likening DDoS to a picketing. There do seem to be parallels. I wonder what the ethical and practical implications would be if there were a tool that requested a web page over and over again that only worked when it was visible on screen, only ran one instance per computer, and prompted the user every five minutes? As far as I can tell, that would be as close to an equivalent to a picketing as you could manage online, and it would represent the people who are willing to get involved rather than the computer time people are willing to throw at it. It's true that such a tool would be easily hacked to get around its limitations, however it would be easier to use an illegitimate DDoS tool instead if that's what you wanted.

    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      I honestly can't see how a DDOS of the particular sort Anonymous uses can be considered illegal.

      It would be like a group of a hundred people going into a supermarket one at a time and buying a stick of gum each. Then, once they've completed their purchase they turn around, go back in, and repeat it again. They're not doing anything technically illegal, but it certainly is disruptive.

      Of course, I could be entirely wrong due to lack of understanding on the law, so please feel free to enlighten me on the subje

      • I honestly can't see how a DDOS of the particular sort Anonymous uses can be considered illegal.

        It would be like a group of a hundred people going into a supermarket one at a time and buying a stick of gum each. Then, once they've completed their purchase they turn around, go back in, and repeat it again. They're not doing anything technically illegal, but it certainly is disruptive.

        Of course, I could be entirely wrong due to lack of understanding on the law, so please feel free to enlighten me on the subject...

        Well, for starters, they're unlawfully hijacking other computers via their botnet to get the volume of gum purchasers they need. That'd equate to holding those 100 people at gunpoint. And also, they're not actually purchasing anything. It'd equate to the 100 people going in and out of the store without buying anything. Just clogging up the doorway. Lastly, a store owner can legally request the 100 people to leave, and they would not be lawfully allowed to go back in the store nor block it (otherwise po

      • by Dan541 (1032000)

        Because the Supermarket can ask you to leave and you can be arrested and charged with a crime for failing to comply. Also you can't do it anonymously without consequence.

        • by Bogtha (906264)

          Because the Supermarket can ask you to leave and you can be arrested and charged with a crime for failing to comply.

          This is also true for websites. When an HTTP client requests a resource from a server, there are a number of responses it can give. The most usual is 200, which basically means "Okay, here's the content". There are other responses the server could give, such as 403, which basically means "No you can't have it and stop asking". Using your analogy, the server can "ask them to leave" at

          • by Dan541 (1032000)

            It's quite apparent that these companies don't want to be DDoSed yet anonymous don't respect those wishes. Anyone who knows the basics of the internet will tell you that you cannot block traffic on the internet, which is why DDoS is such a problem.

            "Women enter supermarkets near where I live wearing niqabs all the time. Plenty of anti-scientology protests have involved people wearing masks."

            and all of those people can be arrested for trespassing or committing any other crime. Wearing a mask doesn't remove yo

            • by Bogtha (906264)

              It's quite apparent that these companies don't want to be DDoSed yet anonymous don't respect those wishes.

              Yes, and companies don't like to be picketed either. The point at which it becomes a crime in the real world is when you ask the person to leave your property and they don't. These companies have the exact same facility available to them - they can "ask the DDoSers to leave" by giving them a 403. Typically, they don't, they just keep giving out 200s, which is the equivalent of saying "yes you can

              • by Dan541 (1032000)

                So by your logic companies want to be DDoSed.

                Why are they calling in the FBI, I wonder?

                • by Bogtha (906264)

                  No, that's not what I said. How about you try to discuss things rationally instead of jumping at the opportunity to misinterpret my comment in a stupid way?

                  • by Dan541 (1032000)

                    There's hardly anything worth discussing here. You're really having the scrape the bottom of the barrel for your arguments here.

    • I think I recall Stallman likening DDoS to a picketing. There do seem to be parallels.

      The picketing that is allowed is something that is next to the entrance of a business that is informing but not blocking entry and exit to said business. And mainly it has to be off the property of the business because they can hit the protestors with trespassing.

      Problem with a DDoS is that it is everything that is NOT allowed in a peaceful picketing. It denies access to a site, Which is the equivalent of blocking the doors to a business. Also any modification of a site is messing with the companies propert

      • by jmcvetta (153563)

        DDoS and defacing a website are different, not necessarily related acts. DDoS doesn't leave any lasting damage, it just annoys the target and potentially costs them business. Defacing a site is intrusive, and reasonably analogous to vandalism in the physical world.

        A hotel down the street is having a protracted dispute with a labor union. Every work day, all day long, there are picketers with a bullhorn standing in front of the hotel. They chant loudly ("don't check in - check out!") and shout personal i

        • Problem is, picketing is an imperfect analogy for DDoS attacks. The internet has no "public sidewalk" for protesters to stand on, making their message heard loudly & clearly, yet without blocking access.

          By definition a DDoS attack... a distributed denial-of-service attack, is intended to block access. It is more akin to picketers actually blocking the entrance of a hotel while on a public sidewalk. That is not legal in the real world and certainly isn't legal online either.

          • by jmcvetta (153563)

            Again tho, the picketing analogy isn't exactly accurate. There is no public sidewalk, no intermediate state between doing nothing and blocking access to the facility. If we want the Law to be reasonable, to find a consensus between the many strands of mainstream thought, then how are annoyances like this to be handled? I'm inclined to think of it as a minor infraction, much like jaywalking. Yes, Joe Random shouldn't fire the LOIC at websites he hates - and yes, Joe Random shouldn't cross the street mid-b

            • The internet itself is the sidewalk. An example of pciketing on this sidewalk is creating your own site or another method/rallying cry against said business. Facebook, youtube, and many other forms of social media are extremely powerful tools to get the message out.

              Whether blocking access irl or online, chances are it coste someone money. And there is no minor infraction when someone takes something from you or costs you your time as an individual. Why would businesses or small user created sites be any dif

              • by jmcvetta (153563)

                But the internet isn't like a sidewalk at all. Jokes aside, it really is more like a series of tubes.

                It is more or less impossible to enter the hotel I have described during business hours without encountering the unionists, and being exposed to their message. Yet suppose you wish to protest webstie Foo and to do so you set up website Bar. This is not analogous, because one may visit site Foo without the slightest awareness of Bar's protest.

                Honestly I think DDoS is an even less effective protest techniqu

    • I think you're conflating one of the practical realities of picketing (it takes time away from other things) with the goal of picketing (to disrupt operation and make people aware of an issue).

      There's no reason why an online picketing campaign needs to abide by obsolete practical aspects of physical picketing. In the online world, you could picket several different websites simultaneously on different issues, if you liked. That's something that's impossible in the physical world.

  • Motivations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Friday March 16, 2012 @01:26PM (#39380667) Journal

    Does it matter if Anonymous is less altruistic than the Civil Rights Movement? The important thing is that they're more altruisitic than our political, economic, and social leaders.

    • by poity (465672)

      But there hasn't been any evidence of altruism on the Anonymous side has there? If anything they've proven to be just as self-serving, albeit with different agendas. But the way I look at it, someone might prefer turd burgers to shit sandwiches, but most would say "that's not a choice I want to make."

  • by Rysc (136391) *

    Whoever said Anonymous was altruistically motivated? The motivation is individual self interest.

  • "it was organized not by individuals but by organizations — and ones with clout"
    Couldn't be more wrong. Yes, Wikipedia and Google joined in the protest, but it was in no way organized by them. It was organized by individuals on sites like Reddit, and Techdirt and Slashdot, etc

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