Tag Archives: hacktivism

New Forms of Hacktivism: Pinterest, Twitter and IFTTT

With the various successes – and antics – of hackers identifying as “Anonymous,” hacktivism is very much on people’s minds these days. I’ve written before about Hacktivism (here, here, and here). Hacking is widely associated with breaking into computer systems (illegal), and more recently also with various forms of modifying or altering physical objects, particularly electronics, to get them to do non-standard things.  But as Wikipedia makes clear, “hacktivism” is a more general concept than just activist-oriented hacking of these kinds:

Hacktivism (a portmanteau of hack and activism) is the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends. The term was first coined in 1996 by a member of the Cult of the Dead Cow hacker collective named Omega. If hacking as “illegally breaking into computers” is assumed, then hacktivism could be defined as “the use of legal and/or illegal digital tools in pursuit of political ends”. These tools include web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web site parodies, virtual sit-ins, typosquatting and virtual sabotage. If hacking as “clever computer usage/programming” is assumed, then hacktivism could be understood as the writing of code to promote political ideology: promoting expressive politics, free speech, human rights, and information ethics through software development. Acts of hacktivism are carried out in the belief that proper use of code will be able to produce similar results to those produced by regular activism or civil disobedience. (via Hacktivism – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)

I’ve been thinking about – and acting on – that wider definition of hacktivism as “the use of computers and computer networks as a means of protest to promote political ends” and I wanted to share with you some of my ideas and actions.

Pinterest seems to me to be, mostly, little more than a huge catalog with ads. Lots of images of things to buy; it’s no mistake that one of the default categories is “Products I Love”.  The whole category list is built primarily around selling and advertising. Where is the category for news? for politics or current events?

And of course a huge percentage of the pins are just pictures of products with links to where they can be bought.  When they aren’t essentially catalog entries (this beautiful dress, that pair of shoes), they are ads (“lose weight now”) or perhaps links to recipes; I haven’t followed that many pins as it gets depressing.  It’s like one big supermarket checkout magazine – though thankfully with fewer pictures of Jennifer Aniston and Kim Kardashian.

Admittedly, there is a growing trend of pining images of nature, art, inspirational quotes, humor and photography on Pinterest that is most welcome (unlike the persistent internet meme of “cute cats” which also has a growing pin presence), but I think we can do more with the site.  I think we can hack Pinterest – or at least engage in some hacktivism there.

Post pictures of Occupy protests. Make and post text images with facts on injustice and inequality, on the threat of climate change, on corruption, or with your favorite quotes from Malcolm X or Emma Goldman or Marx or Noami Wolf or Noam Chomsky.  Take pictures of your squat or community garden and start a Pinterest board called “Squats” or “Collectivism” or “A Better Way of Life” or “Another World is Possible.”

Make and “pin” composite photos showing slums on one side and Rodeo Drive on the other, or garbage dumps and Walmart, or a homeless person and a banker.  You get the idea.

Apart from its conspicuous consumption, Pinterest is also overwhelming white, middle-class, able bodied and heterosexual. Diversify!  The first time I posted an image of two women kissing, I got a complaining comment from a woman who said her granddaughter used the site and she didn’t want her exposed to things like that. Expose! Be there, be queer, help them get used to it.  Even Mitt Romney’s political advisers are backing down on the gay issue.

Twitter is also fertile ground for hacktivism of this sort. Recently, a progressive group posted a petition on one of those Change/Move/etc. petition sites concerning some minor reform at Domino’s Pizza. But even leaving aside how awful their pizza is, Domino’s is a nightmare.  The founder is notoriously anti-choice and anti-gay, and the company is now almost wholely owned by your friendly neighborhood vulture capitalists, Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, which bought 93% of the company in 1998. And it is rabidly Republican:

The Domino’s Pizza political action committee gave $26,500 to federal candidates in the 05/06 election period – 0% to Democrats and 100% to Republicans. David A. Brandon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Domino’s personally gave $37,265 to Republicans ($0 to Democrats) in this same period. (via Domino’s Pizza – SourceWatch.)

So rather than sign some no doubt well-intentioned petition to reform some aspect of this company, I went onto TweetDeck and created a quick list for any tweet mentioning Domino’s, and then replied to those tweets with my own, saying things like “Dominos is anti-choice, anti-gay and 100% Republican” and linking to the SourceWatch article.

In fact, one could automate this kind of hacktivist tweet – and other online / social media hactivist actions – through the new IFTTT service (“If This Then That”). Using something like this “recipe”, you could set up an automated response to tweets mentioning Domino’s, or whatever.  Set up a new target every day, or week.

If you can get a whole group on board, you might add some sort of hashtag hacktivism as well, and try to get something positive and/or provocative trending. Be creative. Would #JustinBeiberHatesDominos trend?  You’ll never know until you try.

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WikiLeaks and the Afghanistan war logs

For excellent comprehensive coverage of both the content of WikiLeak’s “Afghanistan war logs” and the story about their release and reception, check out Afghanistan: The war logs | World news | guardian.co.uk.

As usual, The Guardian shows why it is really the online paper of record – all the news that’s fit for bits – particularly for intelligent and progressive readers.

WikiLeaks and Julian Paul Assange : The New Yorker

WikiLeaks and Julian Paul Assange : The New Yorker – Excellent background piece that came out in the wake of the “Collateral Murder” video of the helicopter attack in Iraq. Makes for useful background reading to the current furor over the “Afghanistan war logs” leak/publication.


Hacktivism Works Both Ways

I’ve written previously (eg, here and here) about the use of hacktivism against neo-Nazi websites – in entries looking at a range of tactics for addressing the explosive growth of hate groups on the interweb, and the increasing role the net is playing in recruiting a new generation of neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists. Well, like the other tactics I discussed – legal action, protesting, etc. – hacktivism can cut both ways:

For the last several days, Colorado Indymedia has been experiencing a prolonged attack in which spam-like comments and stories have been flooding our moderation queue. This attack became so taxing on our server that it temporarily brought the site down at approximately 10pm Mountain Time.

( via Anonymous Posting Has Been Temporarily Disabled | Colorado Indymedia )

Hacktivism as Direct Action – Nazi Punks F**k Off [cont’d]

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;
  • protest;
  • 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.

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Fighting the Fascists Using Direct Action Hacktivism | Anarchist news dot org

From Hack This Zine – by tHoughTCRiime

Taken from the most recent issue of the anarchist hacking zine HackThisZine published by Hackbloc. Grab copies at https://hackbloc.org/zine

The past few months have manifested a number of internet attacks on white supremacist organizations ranging from destroying websites to releasing internal communications. Let’s analyze what happened to further discuss what tactics are appropriate and effective in our movements.

The most recent incident in December involved the release of mysql database dumps for ten neo-nazi websites and forums including private messages, emails, password hashes, everything. For anti-racist activists and researchers, there is a bottomless goldmine of information available in these databases….

read the rest at Anarchist news dot org.

This goes to the issues I began addressing in my post on the neo-nazi website a few weeks ago.

Nazi Punks F**k Off

In follow-up inquiries to my post on the NotCanada.com anti-immigration website, I came across Stormfront.org a racist, neo-Nazi website and I have been thinking about it and its ilk quite a bit since then, specifically about what could be done to confront sites/groups like this. It’s an issue I’ve touched on before (eg, in posts on the killing of Dr. Tiller), but I am no closer to a solution or to feeling reconciled to my lack of a solution.

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