Previously, I discussed the neo-Nazi hate group/website Stormfront.org and possible responses to groups such as this – and to the growing use of the internet by such groups as their key recruitment, organizing and propaganda tool, more generally – including:
- ignore them and hope they go away;
- try to get them shut down, rounded up, put away, whatever, through official channels; and
- take direct action against them.
Problems were raised with the viability and efficacy of each of the first three of these possible responses, and I concluded by briefly addressing the idea of “cyberwarfare” direct action as a response to the web presence of hate groups such as Stormfront.
In particular, I drew attention to two instances of hacktivists (hacker activists) taking direct action against neo-Nazis online, as reported in The Register (here and here) – one involving the holocaust-denying historian David Irving and the other the online forums of one of the world’s largest neo-Nazi groups, Blood & Honour. (The material hacked from Blood & Honor is available from the German IndyMedia site [here] – along with an article and extensive discussion on the action.) But these are just two of a number of successful hacktivist direct actions undertaken against neo-Nazi and other hate groups online.
In August 2009, hacktivists obtained private emails belonging to a chapter of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) and released them through WikiLeaks. The contents of these emails included personal correspondence and the contents of the NSM’s internal discussion email list. The material on holocaust-denier Irving was also posted on WikiLeaks, which has been a key site for the dissemination of material obtained by hacktivists on this and other topics – since the hacking action is, in almost all cases, illegal, and WikiLeaks provides a outlet for getting the material into circulation without compromising the identities of the hacktivists. In early 2009, WikiLeaks also played host to the membership list and other information obtained from the extremist British National Party.
As Anarchist news dot org reports, in December 2009, “in possibly the best score yet, mysql database dumps of ten white supremacist and neo-nazi websites were released to WikiLeaks.” In addition to being made available initially through WikiLeaks, the material has been circulated as a compressed archive (the filename is ten-neo-nazi-sites-plus-2009.tgz) through the BitTorrent filesharing system. Ironically, one of the sites (there are many) hosting the torrent for this collection is The Pirate Bay (here), which – as The Register reported and I blogged on earlier – is partially owned and operated by a major figure in Scandinavian fascist circles. Adding to the irony, the torrent is not available through OneBigTorrent.org, the anarchist alternative BitTorrent site, though a torrent of the material obtained through the earlier hack of Blood & Honour is (here). The reason for circulating this material is that it still consists largely of the raw data obtained, and coders and hackers are needed to parse this information, crack giant password hash lists, and publish the information in human readable formats. (So if you are looking for a way to contribute, that might be a start.)
In another post (“Fighting the Fascists Using Direct Action Hacktivism”), I drew attention to HackThisZine by HackBloc (available here). In the current issue of this hacktivist zine, an article on “Fighting the Fascists: Direct Action Hacktivism” looks at a number of hacktivist actions against white supremacist groups, and engages in a useful and thought-provoking discussion of the practicalities and philosophy/ethics of hacktivism.
Hacktivism is not of course limited to neo-Nazi targets, nor to obtaining and disseminating material, and the current issue of HackThisZine draws attention to a couple of other interesting hacktivist actions. Earlier this year, a group of antipodean hacktivists took on the Australian government with a DDOS as a protest against impending web censorship rules that hadeven Google and the US government going, “Oh, I say there, hold on a minute.”
A spokesperson for the loose coalition of individuals who attacked Federal Government websites this week to protest against the internet filtering policy today acknowledged some thought the attacks were juvenile, but said they sent more of a message than “signing a petition”.
The group this week knocked the website of the Australian Parliament offline in a distributed denial of service attack that also targeted the website of Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.
Government workers were also sent a flood of email with porn enclosed, prank phone calls and dodgy faxes, in an initiative dubbed “Operation Titstorm”.
(via Delimiter – Anonymous: Attacks better than signing a petition.)
Briefly mentioned in the zine, the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine might be considered another form of hacktivism. The Web 2.0 Suicide Machine was designed to allows users of Facebook and other prominent social networks to commit ‘social network suicide’ – by deleting all information on them, their profiles, posts, etc., from these platforms. Unfortunately, the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine was forced to shut down in February of this year due to legal action by FaceBook.
The growing presence of far-right and white supremacist hate groups online is being met by a growing collective of skilled and committed hacktivists – particularly in Europe. With the now widely-known WikiLeaks as an outlet, we will hopefully see much more hacktivist-obtained material made available exposing the membership and workings of such groups. But as the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine and the DDOS attacks on the Australian government show, there are other forms that hacktivist actions can take. The Australia action was in part a very traditional destructive hacking action – a denial of service attack designed to shut down a website. But it was combined with some more creative elements – “Operation Titstorm” – that may point to possible future directions for hacktivist activities.
However, the porn content of the emails sent out through “Operation Titstorm” tends to support criticisms of the action as juvenile, and certainly seems like a wasted opportunity. If the intent of the action was to draw attention to the highly problematic nature of the proposed filtering policy, perhaps the emails could have focused on that in some more positive way. The filter may shut down some porn, but the real concerns about it have to do with it blocking access to information on gay rights or aimed at helping gay youth, on abortion, etc. Maybe the emails could have focused on that.
The Web 2.0 Suicide Machine was an even more creative example of a kind of hacktivism. Although it was designed more as a statement against the relative poverty of social networking compared to real life, human interactions, it also had a strong privacy component. Perhaps at some point in the near future, before it is too late, we may see more such tools allowing us to erase as much online data about ourselves as possible, before that data slips behind firewalls into the various commercial and governmental data mining operations designed to track and commodify our every move. Of course, the other way to limit the availability of such data is not to create it in the first place – and, as I tried to argue in my recent posts on the “digital sweatshop” (eg, here), a lot of that data is created as a form of unpaid labor for the big companies that increasing dominate the interweb – our FaceBook comments, Yelp reviews, Yahoo answers and Monster resumes.
If you’re tired of all this hacktivist shit, for a bit of old-school, off-line anti-fascist activity, check out
As Anti-Racist Action says…
.::have fun::. .::stay young::. .::smash the fash::.
Or as The Specials put it, if you have a racist friend, now is the time for your friendship to end, and if your friends are racists, don’t pretend to be my friend:
- The Specials – Racist Friend MP3
- .::Anti-Racist Action::. Always on the Prowl.. – “a decentralized network of militant anti-fascists and anti-racists in North America. ARA activists organize a variety of actions to expose, oppose, and confront hate in whatever form threatens the diversity and safety of our communities.”
- The Hacker Movement as a Continuation of Labor Struggle – “Examining the way in which capital exploits the volunteer labour of free software developers, this article argues that there is a historical continuity between hackers and labour struggle.” (pdf)
- A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America (2004) – by Elinor Langer
- Stand Strong Against Hate | Southern Poverty Law Center.
- Hackers Post Private E-Mails of Accused Holocaust Denier | Threat Level | Wired.com.