Hacktivists' practical support of the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring demonstrated an international solidarity that structured itself without any hierarchy, via the internet. The first goal of hacktivism is to defend freedoms, not to set up an alternative political system, but it also indirectly outlines the emergence of a new political form of an anarchist nature that makes particular use of computer networks and new tools. Once again, as seen in the Industrial Revolution, technological progress has stimulated societal transformations and whipped up revolutionary sentiment. By diffusing knowledge, hacktivists are transforming power.
This article is the third in a trilogy addressing the notion of hacktivism.
1- Hacktivism: A New Relationship Between Knowledge and Power
2- From Hacking to Freedom Fighting
3- Hacktivism: The Road to Anarchism?
This article was originally published as "Hacktivisme : les voies du pouvoir ne sont plus impénétrables". It was translated from French by Timothée Froelich.
“Don’t Worry, we’re from the internet”, Anonymous’ catchphrase.
Source: Flickr/Abode of Chaos
New software, like Wiki software, made it possible to spread knowledge easily by giving to each the opportunity to transmit his or her knowledge and allowing anyone with internet access to benefit from it. Wikileaks, using MediaWiki, the same software as Wikipedia, made available to every internet user a platform dedicated to publicly sharing leaks of sensitive information, while, at the same time, ensuring the protection of the sources. Wikileaks’ action is based on Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states the principles of freedom of opinion and expression. Wikileaks’ actions helped to lift the veil of secrecy on illegal behaviors during certain recent military events that had been kept quiet by the governments responsible. This group has not only shattered the opacity of governments that did not wish to share the information related to their legal or illegal actions, but has especially established transparency as a key principle of politics.
Each citizen has the right to access the information related to the politics of his or her community. Everyone can modify the exercise of his or her rights (the right to vote, in particular) according to all the information that exists. The opacity of contemporary politics is considered a denial of the governmental entity as the intermediary between political action and citizens in a state governed by the rule of law. However, Wikileaks’ particularity is the horizontality of the diffusion of information coming from the Wiki software itself, whereas it would be possible to imagine a vertical transparency with the State itself providing open data. Once again, as was seen during the industrial revolution, technical progress has stimulated societal transformations and whipped up revolutionary sentiment. The fact that Wikileaks has offered everyone the opportunity to diffuse and have access to information has created a horizontal architecture of knowledge that has led, through the prism of Foucault’s dynamics (Cf. our previous articles about hacktivism), to a horizontal power structure, characteristic of the anarchist society.
Hacktivism: A Path to Anarchism
In contrast to the ineffectiveness of governments and the United Nations, the hacktivists’ practical support of the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring demonstrated an international solidarity that structured itself without any hierarchy, via the internet (#OpSyria). The incapacity of traditional political structures to take action became obvious and led to the loss of their credibility. The first goal of hacktivism is to defend freedoms, and not to set up an alternative political system. But it also indirectly outlined the emergence of a new political form of an anarchist nature that makes particular use of computer networks and new tools (like software foreshadowing the establishment of a delegative democracy, a democratic system, used notably by the German Pirate Party, in which most issues are decided by direct referendum), in order to establish a horizontal organization of our society.
Strongly influenced by civil disobedience and the ideas of the DIY movement, hacktivism uses methods belonging to anarchism. In certain protests very similar to online sit-ins, it even reproduces temporary autonomous zones on the network, as Hakim Bey described them. The internet, which has already become an extension of reality, is now also the crucible of disputes playing out within it. For this reason, the neutrality of the net constitutes an essential condition that all citizens should enjoy, in order to access the continuity of their reality without hindrance and fully exercise their freedoms. As demonstrated in Michel Foucault’s analyses of the parrêsia cynique (ability to tell things as they are), the courage of truth can become a weapon to emancipate onself from the powers and offer autonomy and independence. The source codes that hacktivists boldly disseminate throughout the web unchain them from a truth decided by someone else. They endure no longer; they contribute.
Freedom and human solidarity
From the Porphyrian tree, we arrive at Deleuze’s and Guattari’s rhizome. Subordination gives way to an interconnectedness where every subject gains power of influence over every other subject. A real cybernetic society, in which components are defined even more by their interactions than by their own characteristics, is taking shape through the specter of technology.
The humans reveal themselves in the internet users with all their universality. Out of the alliance of a binary language common to all computers, with the critical eye of the citizen who rejects injustice, springs forth the idea of a human solidarity. Technology, without erasing cultural differences, gathers citizens in a community that gravitates around the same value: freedom.
About the author:
After attending law school, Rodhlann Jornod is now focusing on studying practical philosophy. He is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Criminology in Paris, and is currently writing his dissertation, addressing the structures of morality related to the phenomenon of criminal justice. His interest for new technologies also led him to study the impact of sciences on notions of practical philosophy, such as moral and politics.
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