[ANSOL-geral] Guardian Comment is free: Hackers are being radicalised by government policy

André Isidoro Fernandes Esteves aife netvisao.pt
Quarta-Feira, 29 de Junho de 2011 - 01:49:36 WEST

Hackers are being radicalised by government policy

Loz Kaye


Now that the LulzSec boat has sailed over the horizon, it seems a good moment 
to take stock of the past weeks' "hacktivism" frenzy. We've been bombarded 
with images of oddballs lurking in murky chatrooms – geeky teenagers who are 
simultaneously global cyber-villains. Given the reporting, we'd be forgiven 
for thinking that it's all about the personal obsessions of a few nerds. This 
would be to ignore the wider context.

LulzSec wasn't an isolated or unique phenomenon. People with passionate 
beliefs have been using new technological tools to effect change out of a 
sense of powerlessness. In the last year, I've watched 38 Degrees using the 
strength of association online to change government policy, WikiLeaks force 
transparency on those who'd rather run from it, even the amorphous mass that 
is Anonymous taking a stand on whatever issue they feel deserves their 

These tools are now themselves under attack. Lord Mandelson's last gift to us, 
the Digital Economy Act, is just one of a raft of "three strikes laws" 
worldwide that threaten to cut off households from the web. Buried in the 
coalition's Prevent strategy is the assertion that "internet filtering across 
the public estate is essential". Nor is it solely a British issue; Nicolas 
Sarkozy called for global online governance at the eG8 in his attempt to 
civilise the "wild west" of the web.

We're starting to see what this civilising process entails. Open Rights Group 
revealed that Ed Vaizey and lobbyists held a secret meeting discussing the 
future of web blocking powers. There was no public oversight and no one asked 
the net natives. Vaizey has relented a little via Twitter, consenting to open 
up the discussion – the Pirate Party and I welcome that invitation. It will 
take more, however, than getting a few NGOs around a table to ease the real 
sense of anger poisoning the online community.
What even the MoD insists on calling "cyberspace" has become contested 
territory. Many recent events have been fuelled by a fear that the internet is 
under siege by governments hell-bent on restricting its subversive potential. 
Nato has added to this perception with violent rhetoric and an expressed 
desire to penetrate Anonymous. No surprise the response has been "Well, 
penetrate you, Nato".

We've reached a critical juncture: either we sail headlong into escalating 
confrontation, or we attempt to change tack and reduce the tension by finding 
a democratic way forward, one that preserves our right to free association. 
From anonymous bloggers in Iran, to those using Twitter and Facebook in Tahrir 
Square and even teenagers in the bedrooms of Essex, there is a common thread. 
A feeling of persecution and dismay that our freedoms are being suppressed.
These concerns haven't gone unnoticed; a recent report by the UN special 
rapporteur on free expression, Frank La Rue, explicitly criticised legislation 
including the Digital Economy Act, considering it to be a violation of freedom 
of speech. This broadside from La Rue has finally spurred our MPs into action. 
An early day motion calling for a review of the most invasive provisions of 
the Digital Economy Act has been sponsored by Julian Huppert. It is supported 
by only 26 of his colleagues, which seems to show that there are only a few in 
the Commons prepared to stand up for an online constituency.

In the days ahead it may prove that the real headline last Saturday was not 
the disbanding of LulzSec, but the fact that ISP Telstra was pulling out of an 
agreement with the Australian government to implement web filtering due to 
worries about hacking. This was portrayed as a significant victory. As long as 
it seems that direct action is more effective than democratic engagement, it's 
clear that the former will appear a more attractive option to many. The 
official line that the internet is a dangerous territory to be subdued is 
responsible for an alarming radicalisation. This is not just an issue for the 
tabloids' oddballs and nerds, it's an issue for everyone who believes in the 
fundamental importance of freedom.

It's time for governments to turn their ship around and plot a new course.

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