Is Operation Payback A Crime… Or Just The Modern Equivalent Of A Sit In?
from the ddos-the-student-center,-man dept
With the news coming out that Dutch officials have supposedly arrested someone involved in “Operation Payback,” the Anonymous-driven DDoSing of certain websites (first those in favor of stronger copyright, and now those working against Wikileaks), Evgeny Morozov raises an interesting question: is this just the modern digital equivalent of staging a sit-in?
I don’t think that their attacks are necessarily illegal or immoral. As long as they don’t break into other people’s computers, launching DDoS should not be treated as a crime by default; we have to think about the particular circumstances in which such attacks are launched and their targets. I like to think of DDoS as equivalents of sit-ins: both aim at briefly disrupting a service or an institution in order to make a point. As long as we don’t criminalize all sit-ins, I don’t think we should aim at criminalizing all DDoS.
That’s part of a larger post, where he worries that the government will overreact to these forms of attacks and use it to try to get greater oversight over the internet, and force less anonymity online. Of course, I would imagine that any such attempt to do so would backfire, and simply drive forward efforts to create more truly distributed and underground connections.
Later, Morozov notes that, in Germany at least, courts have said that activism-driven DDoS’s are, in fact, the equivalent of a sit-in.
I can see both sides of this argument. Of course, you can also argue that a basic sit-in is a form of trespassing, and thus against the law, but we tend to tolerate it for the most part. But, like many sit-ins, I think the bigger issue is that I’m not convinced these DDoS attacks are even remotely effective. Do they get attention? Yes, absolutely. Especially the attacks on Visa and MasterCard. But will it actually do anything productive? That’s not clear. It might make some companies think twice before doing certain things, but I’m not sure it will really matter that much.
The longer term effects may be more damaging. I’m not convinced the government would actually be able to successfully crack down via any attempt to get greater oversight on internet usage, but I think that there is the potential that these forms of attacks will backfire and could make people take the real issues behind censorship and online freedom less seriously, as they’re associated with what’s viewed as a sort of immature and sophomoric approach to the discussion.