Overreacting To Anonymous Is A Greater Threat To Freedom, Innovation & Creativity Than Any Of Their Attacks
from the preach-it dept
Yochai Benkler has a typically brilliant essay in Foreign Affair magazine explaining why overreacting to and misunderstanding Anonymous is ridiculous and dangerous:
Seeing Anonymous primarily as a cybersecurity threat is like analyzing the breadth of the antiwar movement and 1960s counterculture by focusing only on the Weathermen. Anonymous is not an organization. It is an idea, a zeitgeist, coupled with a set of social and technical practices. Diffuse and leaderless, its driving force is “lulz” -- irreverence, playfulness, and spectacle. It is also a protest movement, inspiring action both on and off the Internet, that seeks to contest the abuse of power by governments and corporations and promote transparency in politics and business. Just as the antiwar movement had its bomb-throwing radicals, online hacktivists organizing under the banner of Anonymous sometimes cross the boundaries of legitimate protest. But a fearful overreaction to Anonymous poses a greater threat to freedom of expression, creativity, and innovation than any threat posed by the disruptions themselves.Benkler argues that if you look at Anonymous' actions in the "context of protest," you begin to realize that what they're doing is much more about political speech than any sort of "security" risk or terrorist threat. After detailing a bunch of hacks -- where they all had political messages of sort attached to them, Benkler notes:
The political nature of these targets demonstrates why it is patently wrong to see Anonymous purely as a cyberthreat. Opinions about the justifiability of any given attack may differ, either because of the target or because of its form. The main challenge becomes one of deciding who gets to set the boundaries of legitimate protest. If one unquestioningly accepts the validity of all U.S. government decisions, as well as the current distribution of power in the private sector, the pattern of Anonymous’ attacks seems unambiguously dangerous. But surely there must be a place for civil disobedience and protest that is sufficiently disruptive to rouse people from complacence. Viewing Anonymous purely as a matter of crime reduction or national security will lead governments to suppress it and ignore any countervailing considerations. A more appropriate, balanced response to Anonymous’ attacks would err on the side of absorbing damage and making the hacks’ targets resilient, rather than aggressively surveilling and prosecuting the network and its participants.He notes that some of Anonymous' attacks appear to go over the line from protest to something more problematic, but most of them really are just forms of traditional protest. But the overreaction threatens to hinder all sorts of online protests and speech, which is a very dangerous precedent to set. Hopefully those insisting that Anonymous is pure evil can take the time to read Benkler's full article and reconsider their views.