Legalised Cybercrime?

As a combination of hacking and social activism, hacktivism can be perceived as the use of digital tools in pursuit of political ends (Mitwew 2012). The notions of hacktivism are cast throughout society with negative connotations and little understanding of hacker ethics. My personal opinion is that hacktivism shows just how fragile an underbelly most enterprises and governments have, as well as much of the security industry. Benkler’s (2009) article justifies this in the detailing of the revealing of the Collateral Murder, Afghanistan and Iraq in April-October 2010 through Wikileaks. Lately, however, the hacktivism term has been applied to protests against multinational organizations, governments, and even rural law enforcement agencies, and the tactics now include DoS attacks on sites, as well as leaks of confidential documents to the public.

Today’s hacktivism creates a high level of embarrassment that goes beyond corporate press releases about data breaches, or identity theft. When the information is released it can be very public and quite dangerous, not only to the institution being hacked, but, by collateral damage, to innocents. But what about the other side of the argument? Some politically motivated data breaches have inspired full-blown revolutions. In the spring of 2011, thousands of protestors took to the streets in the Middle East, rallying against their governments, some of which had been in power for decades. They were emboldened by, among other things, technology. For some, WikiLeaks and a decentralized online organization known as Anonymous created the environment that gave rise to the “Arab Spring” by posting secret government documents online.

In this sense, could hacktivism be perceived as ‘legalised cybercrime’? Could society draw a clear distinction between crimes committed strictly for money (identity theft, fraud, extortion, embezzlement, etc.) and crimes committed for the sake of theoretical anarchism, peer prestige, vigilantism, or laughs? Or should they be labelled as ‘materialistic crimes’ and ‘sociopathic crimes’? Either way, there is bound to be leakage.

Whether hacktivism is a crime may be debated. Opponents argue that hacktivism causes damage in a forum where there is already ample opportunity for non-disruptive free speech. Others insist that such an act is the equivalent of a protest and is therefore protected as a form of free speech. What ever the case, hacktivism has revealed just how poorly many companies handle the process of securing data, much of which belongs to consumers. I think consumers should be asking the companies that hold their data, ‘How well are you really protecting my info?’


Benkler, Y. (2011) ‘A free irresponsible press: Wikileaks and the battle over the soul of the networked fourth estate’, p. 1-33 [URL:].

Khatchadourian, R. (2010) ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’ The New Yorker, June 7. [URL:].

Mitew, T 2012, Counter Networks, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 17/09/2012.


Twitter: The millennial megaphone

A bridge made of pebbles is an excellent analogy used by Johnson (2009) in describing the use of short Tweets to create something so large – an atmosphere of constant awareness. I feel that this analogy could be applied to many aspects of the internet. The plethora of information which is available online creates the notion of what we know as the internet or cyberculture itself. This overabundance of information, which has been aided by the rise of mass ameaturisation, has developed the organisational habit of sorting.

The previous communication models where the audience is considered passive and absorbent are now being literally rewritten by society. The interactive nature of online content, through selection and sorting of relevance had developed the emergence of a participatory culture. This culture has not only created effects online, but also offline through the advance of new ethics, credibility and collective intelligence. In this world, consumers become prosumers, where participating has its own rewards. However, the ease of creating online content has vastly altered the power balance between traditional news outlets and the emergence of new information hubs. Consumers can now actively seek information and furthermore, critically analyse and evaluate an issue beyond the normative agenda setting of the industrial news outlets.

Bruns (2009) refers to the notion of ‘gatewatchers’ as ‘guide dogs’ who may point their users to useful reports in conventional news publications as well as to first-hand materials from official or unofficial sources or to insightful commentary and analysis; in other words, they watch the output gates of other sources, and further publicise the material published allowing people to compare and contrasts news with only a few clicks. The focus here has shifted from first hand investigation, to the development of retrieval and analytical skills. I think the concept of ‘gatewatchers’ is reoccurring in many facets of the internet beyond citizen journalism and is a reflection of the increasingly critical society which we are a part of.


Bruns, A. (2009) ‘News Blogs and Citizen Journalism: New Directions for e-Journalism’ [URL:].

Johnson, S. (2009). How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live. Time [URL:,8599,1902604,00.html].

Mitew, T 2012, Social media and the rise of gatewatchers, DIGC202, Global Networks, University of Wollongong, delivered 10/09/2012.

Image sourced from:

Is this post worth your attention?


Kevin Kelly (2008) states:

‘In short, the money in this networked economy does not follow the path of the copies. Rather it follows the path of attention, and attention has its own circuits.’

In the world of advertising, the trick to being successful is to break through the clutter to sell your product in a way that stands out from all the others. In my opinion, the developing concept of the attention economy within cyberspace could certainly be seen as an interchangeable process with this. While the principle remains the same, the scope of the message goes far beyond the selling of a product. It in the digital sphere, the clutter could be perceived as the plethora of online content, whether is be amongst the millions of daily Tweets, the hundreds of play-by-play life posts by people within your Facebook newsfeed, the incredibly varied points of view expressed through the exponential number of blogs or the hundreds of news stories churned out each day. Each separate piece of content within these networks – of which there are billions – are all competing for the consumers attention to convey a message.

In the long running love affair between advertising and media, things are very complex (as is the case with most love affairs). Advertising is not a very faithful lover, prone to frequent changes in its lovers. Whenever a new and promising medium comes along, advertising flocks to it. This was the case when TV came along and usurped everyone else. But the other media, like radio and print, didn’t die out – instead they carved out their own niches.

Could this analogy be applied to the attention economy of the internet? I certainly think so. For example, Myspace was once the central platform of social networking amongst my group of friends. Everyone was competing for the attention of others through a ‘cool’ background, competition to be in someone’s ‘Top Friends’ was fierce and having the same layout as another person was practically social suicide. But what for? Myspace for many of us is now merely a distant memory, but for others such as those involved in the music industry, it is a key gateway into a world of opportunities – a world of competing for the attention of others.

‘Where there is abundance of information there is scarcity of attention’ (Mitew 2012).

Thus, the moral of the story here is to pay attention to where you pay attention.



Anderson, C. (2004). The Long Tail. Wired, 12.10  [URL:]

Kelly, K. (2008). Better Than Free.[URL:]

Mitew, T 2012, ‘Into the cloud: the long tail and the attention economy’, DIGC202, Global Networks, lecture, delivered Wollongong University, 3rd September.

O’Reilly, T. (2005) ‘What is Web 2.0’ O’Reilly Media.[URL:]

Shirky, C. (2002). Weblogs and the Mass Amateurization of Publishing. [URL:]

Image sourced from: 03/09/2012.