What is “hacktivism”, you might ask?
Answer: Nothing more than “the same old cheap (computer) hacks elevated to political protest”, according to “Oxblood Ruffin” (mebbe not his real name?), one of the founders of Cult of the Dead Cow (AKA “cDc”), the first online hacktivist group.
“Cult of the Dead Cow”
The Cult of the Dead Cow was founded in 1984 in Lubbock, Texas. They’ve been around almost as long as the beginnings of the personal computer. They were originally just a group of friends on an electronic bulletin board, who eventually created one of the very first online zines, “the cDc text-file collection.”
In 1990, a cDc member launched the first hacker conference in the U.S., HoHoCon. It was held in Houston, Texas.
In 1996, Cult of the Dead Cow co-founder “Omega” coined the term “hacktivism” and that’s when the group took on a political purpose.
Patrick Ball, human rights director at Benentech, a non-profit organization that uses technology to address social issues, has defined “hacktivism” as “an opportunity for engaged young programmers to do cool and socially beneficial stuff with their technical skill and curiosity.”
“Cult of the Dead Cow” meets “The Hong Kong Blondes”
In 1996, cDc member “Oxblood Ruffin” met a Cal Tech computer wiz named “Blondie Wong” who happened to mention that his 40-member group, “The Hong Kong Blondes”, opposed the repressive post-Tiananmen Square political climate in mainland China.
Ruffin published an interview with “Wong” at the cDc zine. The interview not only made an impact in the hacker community, it led to a movement that spawned more hacktivist groups worldwide.
When the tactics of one particular emerging hacktivist scheme threatened to border hard on cyberterrorism, cDc members decided that it was time to draft a code of do’s and don’ts for acts of online civil disobedience and, thus the “Hacktivismo Declaration” was born.
Most notable among the Declaration’s targets was promoting fair and reasonable access to information as well as the promotion of opposition to “state sponsored censorship of the Internet.”
Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow and the Electronic Freedom Foundation helped Cult of the Dead Cow draft the Declaration. Hopefully, Jerry Garcia and Abbie Hoffman were looking down and smiling.
“The Cult of the Dead Cow” meets “Slick Willy”
By 2000, the Cult of the Dead Cow had earned a name for itself. President Bill Clinton organized a panel to combat cyberterror, and cDc member Mudge was called on to be part of that panel. In other words, Mudge was actually consulting directly with the President of the United States.
Mudge’s meeting with Clinton outraged some hackers, especially the ones who wanted to target some of the most popular American sites, including CNN.com, eBay, Yahoo!, and Amazon.
Alive and still kicking! Check out their website. There’s lots of informative and funny ironic stuff.
“Hacktivism and how it got there”, Michelle Delio, Wired, URL: (http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/news/2004/07/64193)
“Hacking for human rights”, Arik Hesseldahl, Wired, URL: (http://www.wired.com/politics/law/news/1998/07/13693)