If you’ve been following the recent surge of violence between Israel and Palestine, you may have seen that the Twitter account of Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom was hacked by a hacktivism group loosely associated with Anonymous. They generally ran amuck on his account, apparently got his phone number, and will possibly be releasing his private emails. Anonymous also hacked a number of Israeli websites, notably the Bank of Jerusalem and various Israeli government sites. All of this mostly because Israel threatened to shutdown internet access in the Gaza region, a move that tends to spring the hacker group into action. Anonymous’ activities are a big deal, just ask anyone with something worth keeping secret. They raise important questions about the freedom of information. The reality is that we’ve never had such unregulated access to the amount of information the internet provides, and we simply don’t know how to deal with it. Will we be able to in the future?
Hacktivists or Terrorists?
Free access to the information and communication supergiant that is The Internet is what Anonymous seems to actually be interested in “defending”. Everyone uses the internet to communicate information, including world governments and major businesses. Some of this information is highly valuable, and so like silk traders traveling the long road from the Orient to the Mediterranean, by traveling the information superhighway, these entities open themselves and their valuables to being robbed by raiders. And [easyazon-link asin=”0316213543″ locale=”us”]Anonymous[/easyazon-link] are extremely good raiders who do not like it when someone says who can and can’t use the roads, and what they can use it for. It spurred the attack on the Church of Scientology, Visa, Mastercard, Mubarak’s Egyptian regime, and now Israel. These entities claim millions of dollars in losses at the hands of hackers, but many groups associated with Anonymous claim the moral high ground, arguing these entities deserved to be hacked.
Right now theres not many “rules” to the internet. You can do and access almost anything (seriously just look into the Deep Web) and many activists say thats the way it should be. Anonymous doesn’t play by any rules either. There’s a number of splinter groups with their own philosophies, motivates and targets. And they can identify with Anonymous if they want, which has spurred some confusion over the group’s motives. Even if your not a hacker, the internet opens up a massive treasure chest of information, including programs, movies, music, you name it. It has become largely the norm to download content for free, but will this continue? Two acts, SOPA and PIPA were debated in Congress last year, both aimed to curb internet piracy. Both were heavily protested by internet powerhouses like Wikipedia, Reddit and Google, and both were suspended. So the internet is still largely unregulated, and it looks to stay that way for the time being.
Of course most anyone with anything worth something, whether that be money, strategic value, or a reputation does not appreciate being hacked. And they want to put a stop to it. They argue that just like you can’t break into a bank and steal money, you can’t break into a website and steal information. Some media outlets have gone as far as called Anonymous terrorists, and despite the lack of actual internet legislation, many entities have found ways to prosecute or sue offenders for crossing into what they argue is illegal territory. Many key members of Anonymous have been arrested and brought in on charges of conspiracy. There is a Wikileaks founder [easyazon-link asin=”030795191X” locale=”us”]Julian Assange[/easyazon-link] fears extradition to the US, and Bradley Manning is looking at life in prison for leaking information to Wikileaks. Still there has yet to be a clearly drawn line in the sand.
The reality is we will have to draw that line in the sand at some point. The question is where. For regulation to work effectively, jurisdictions must be drawn, agencies assembled and laws passed. Easier said than done. Opponents and proponents come from all angles and “sides”, but there seems to be a clear line being drawn between the new-age philosophy of absolute freedom of information, and the established philosophy of private property, traditional copywrite laws, etc. Will we find a way to fairly please both parties or is the internet bound to be the battlefield of the future? And will individuals be responsible for their own defense in the online sphere?
For many, the internet is far more than a medium for information and connection. It is a community that thrives on the ability to share content freely. People identify with the internet. People are willing to go to jail for years for the internet. This is not about computer games and emoticons anymore. This may be the defining debate of this generation. Will we see a major shift in the definition of “free” in the near future? Whatever it may be, the internet will be at the center of it all, and we should be ready to deal with that. If you want to get the full story behind Anonymous, I suggest watching [easyazon-link asin=”B009PCXGQY” locale=”us”]We Are Legion[/easyazon-link], a fantastic documentary that admittedly leans towards Anon’s side but that gives you an accurate history of the group and their philosophy.