Cyber Activism refers to how people use technological tools to effect social and political change. These tools can range between anything from mobile phones and cameras to social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter (Kyongjae Song, 2011). There has been an alarming surge of online social media platforms in recent years. Social media programs such as YouTube and Facebook became household names almost overnight and have been able to reach even the most distant and underprivileged countries around the world. These platforms allow users to upload various forms of content, which is then visible to almost anyone around the world with an internet connection.
While these online platforms were originally created for communication and entertainment purposes, they have quickly become an online conduit for political and human rights activism. Public outcries and human rights abuses which were once hidden from the world are easily discovered and made public through advances in social media. Depending on the cause, cyber activism can be used to raise awareness of an issue, gather and organise followers while also initiate change (Techopedia.com, 2017). For example, cyber activists can create and send important petitions to a great number of people to be signed before they are sent on to the government or authorities.
During today’s lecture and tutorial, we discussed the similarities and differences between cyber activism and the concept of hacktivism. Hacktivism involves the hacking of certain computer systems, for a politically or socially motivated purpose (SearchSecurity, 2017). The main difference between the two is the fact that hacktivists use illegal and commonly unethical procedures to collect and distribute the classified information that they acquire. A hacktivist uses basically the same tools and techniques that a hacker would use, but they do so in order to bring attention to a greater political or social cause (Denning, 2017).
An interesting example of a real life hacker turned cyber activist is the founder of the whistle blowing website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. Assange used his hacking skills to break into the data bases of hundreds of high profile organisations (Biography.com, 2017). Just over 15 years ago, Assange created WikiLeaks, a website which sought to find confidential information regarding massive organisations and distribute it into the public sphere. Assange created WikiLeaks because he believed that the public deserved to know what was going on behind closed doors and although his intentions were purely for the people, he made some irreversible choices which subsequently put many people in danger. I believe that we have the right to know certain information about the people who we trust to run our countries and international affairs, however, I do not support any of the unethical choices that Assange has made over the past few years which has left many people feared to be dead.
Biography.com. (2017). Julian Assange. [online] Available at: https://www.biography.com/people/julian-assange-20688499 [Accessed 3 Aug. 2017].
Denning, D. (2017). The Rise of Hacktivism |. [online] Journal.georgetown.edu. Available at: http://journal.georgetown.edu/the-rise-of-hacktivism/ [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Kyongjae Song (2011). A Study on the Global Social Movement: Focusing the Global Cyber Activism. 21st centry Political Science Review, 21(1), pp.79-99.
SearchSecurity. (2017). What is hacktivism? – Definition from WhatIs.com. [online] Available at: http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/definition/hacktivism [Accessed 4 Aug. 2017].
Techopedia.com. (2017). What is Cyberactivism? – Definition from Techopedia. [online] Available at: https://www.techopedia.com/definition/27973/cyberactivism [Accessed 3 Aug. 2017].