Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks were the hot topic at WikiLeaks and Online Civil Disobedience, a Social Media Week New York panel hosted by the Personal Democracy Forum and moderated by its editor and curator, Micah Sifry.
Speakers at the event, in order, were Deanna Zandt, author of Share This: How You Will Change the World with Social Networking; Evgeny Morozov, author of new book The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom; and John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The event was held at Hearst’s Art & Culture Hub in Manhattan.
Zandt made it a point to differentiate between DDoS attacks and hacking, saying, “Denial-of-service attacks are not hacking. Hacking tends to be where systems are broken into and data are compromised. None of the business data or practices was compromised in any way. I do feel that DDOS is a civil form of disobedience.”
Speaking specifically about Anonymous, the group responsible for attacking several corporate Web sites in defense of WikiLeaks, she said, “In the past, Anonymous hasn’t done anything in this scale that was explicitly, overtly, hugely political,” adding that the group was made up of “chaos enthusiasts — they’re interested in the drama of chaos unfolding. It’s not as if there was this sleeper cell of people who were ready to attack this big, bad corporation.”
On digital activism in general, Zandt concluded, “I’m often very, very frustrated with what the face of actual digital activism looks like. We have the ability and the freedom to risk ourselves for the benefit of many who don’t. We can’t ultimately rely on these digital tools to do our dirty work. If governments and corporations can easily collude to disable our ability to communicate with one another, what is our response?”