Why has hacktivism gained such prevalence in modern culture? What caused this rise? What is the unifying motivation of the hacktivist movement, if there is one?
Thesis and Roadmap:
For the purposes of my paper, hacktivism is the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends. Firstly, I posit that the rise of hacktivism is a direct result of increased Internet surveillance and censorship on the part of the government since the advent of the War on Terror, rather than the injection of conventional activism into the digital realm. Consequently, since this shift in online power is the underlying cause for the emergence of hacktivism, I argue that the movement does indeed have a main unifying motivation: the promotion of Internet freedom and expression. Furthermore, it has gained such prevalence by appealing to the public’s desire for political power without the loss of anonymity.
Since there are far too many hacktivist organizations to track at time of writing, I will focus on the fairly well-known hacktivist organization known as Anonymous. Its global scope and relative seniority in the history of the movement allow me to use it as a representative example for the hacktivist movement as a whole. To argue my thesis, I will first prove that there has been a shift in online power and an increase in surveillance and censorship. From there, I will demonstrate how the public feels about this change. Finally, I can then analyze the history, actions, and rhetoric of Anonymous to show both that they arose as a result of Big Brother and that their main motivation is the promotion of Internet freedom.