First Monday, Volume 10, Number 9 - 5 September 2005

Hacking for a cause

Brian Still


This paper explores the concept of hacktivism, which is hacking for a political or social cause on the Internet. Generally hackers, even those hacking government–sponsored sites, have been negatively stereotyped as malicious thrill seekers or, worse yet, cyberterrorists. But increasingly there are more politically motivated hackers distancing themselves from cyberterrorism by engaging in hacktivism that is intent more upon disruption than disobedience. Certain hacktivists, in fact, have created tools or taken advantage of those already available to provide freedom of speech in the electronic frontier for those living in oppressive nation–states. This paper will show that these hacktivists are, far from being online terrorists or thrill–seekers, organized, technically skilled, politically conscious and socially aware hacktivists who seek to challenge the authority of oppressive nation–states.