The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Hacktivism does more good than harm

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after 1 vote the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/7/2011 Category: News
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 12,717 times Debate No: 19720
Debate Rounds (1)
Comments (6)
Votes (1)




RESOLVED: Computer hacktivism does more good than harm.
Before I present our main arguments I'd like to provide a proper framework for today's debate.
DEFINITION: Hacktivism
First, it's crucial that I will define the most important term in today's topic, "hacktivism." Hacktivism is a combination of the words "hack" and "activism,"
however, it is extremely important to remember that the word "hacktivism" is different in both meaning and spirit than the word "hack/hacking." Voters,
please do not allow my opponent to trick you into believing that they mean the same thing. "Hack/Hacking" is defined by "breaking into a computer
system" according to IBM's Internet Security Systems. On the other hand, "hacktivism" is the act of "a computer hacker whose activity is aimed at
promoting a social or political cause" according to Oxford Dictionary. On that note, I'd like to warn my opponent in advance that any examples they
cite which do not fall under this proper definition of hacktivism will be not allowed in this debate.
STANDARD: Preponderance of Evidence
Second, we need a standard or weighing mechanism to determine the winner of this debate. I believe that the standard of today's
debate is very clear. The topic explicitly asks us whether or not hacktivism does "more good than harm" and therefore the standard should be
preponderance of evidence. I believe the debater that provides the best and most impactful examples of the actual goods and harms, warranted by
evidence, should win this round.
With all of that said, I have several arguments…
CONTENTION 1: Hacktivism Is Civil Disobedience
Our first main argument is that "hacktivism" is a form of civil disobedience.
● Hacktivism is the modern online version of traditional protests, marches, and rallies.
● Acts of hacktivism are very similar to historical acts of civil disobedience in our country that took place around the time of the American
Revolution and Civil Rights Movement. For example:
● Ex. Our founding fathers engaged in the "Boston Tea Party" and threw British shipments of tea into Boston Harbor to protest the Tea Act.
They felt that the law violated their right to only be taxed by their own representatives.
● Ex. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1950s, which at the time
was a crime and violated a city law that was 55 years old.
● Both of these examples involve individuals breaking the law, but doing so peacefully and in name of a noble and good cause.
● Hacktivists act in a similar manner:
● Ex. A hacktivist group organized a virtual sit-in demonstration to protest the State of Michigan's financial cuts to Medicaid, which negatively
impacted the health and livelihood of sick and dying children and senior citizens. (CSO Security & Risk, May 2007)
● IMPACT: The important take away from this argument is, that hacktivism is simply the modern-day extension of civil disobedience. While
it sometimes involves breaking the law, it is normally done in the name of a good cause: state's rights, civil rights, and in our hacktivism
example, the rights of sick and dying children and senior citizens.
CONTENTION 2: Hacktivism Promotes Free Speech & Democracy
Our third main argument is that hacktivism promotes free speech and democracy.
● The vast majority of hacktivists are firm believers in free speech. Hacktivismo, a prominent hacktivist group, outlines this in their groups'
declaration, which champions Article 19 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: "Everyone has the right to
freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart
information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."
● Free speech is the most important right of any democratic society, which is why it appears as the first amendment in our Bill of Rights.
● Hacktivists promote free speech and further democracy by allowing people to freely share and access information over the internet, as well
as defend individuals from governments and corporations that would look to infringe upon that fundamental right. Two examples:
● Ex. A well-known young computer hacker, George Hotz, recently reverse engineered and modified a Sony PlayStation 3 gaming console,
and shared his knowledge online. Under a recent ruling by The Library of Congress, Mr. Hotz's actions were perfectly legal by law. Despite
this, Sony Computer Entertainment attempted to file charges against Mr. Hotz. The hacktivist community came to his defense, and
responded with an attack against Sony's online gaming network. Professor David Touretzky, of Carnegie Mellon University, also came to
Mr. Hotz defense, hosting a copy of George's work on the Carnegie Mellon University website, and releasing a statement decrying Sony
for its shameful attempt to suppress legal free speech.
● Ex. The Arab Spring movement, revolutionary protests taking place in several countries in the Arab world, is being aided in large part
to hacktivists. Many corrupt and oppressive governments in the Middle East censor their internet access as a form of control over
their people. Hacktivists work to setup separate networks where people can freely exchange information and organize protests and
demonstrations, as was the case in Syria for example. (Deutsche Welle – German News Outlet, August, 2011)
● IMPACT: The impact of these two examples is clear and powerful. On a micro level, an individuals' right to freedom of speech is protected
against powerful corporations that try to misapply the law. On a macro level, entire countries of oppressed and mistreated people can gain
a fundamental right they did not have, which has lead to the ousting and overthrow of corrupt leaders and governments in countries such
as Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, as well as protests all over the Arab world.
CONTENTION 3: Hacktivism Promotes Anti-War, Anti-Crime, & Anti-Terror Causes
Our third main argument is that hacktivism promotes anti-war, anti-crime, and anti-terror causes. We have three examples we'd like to share.
● Ex. The first documented instance of hacktivism occurred in October of 1989. Hacktivists changed the login screens of U.S. Department
of Energy and NASA computers, and displayed the message: "Worms Against Nuclear Killers: You talk of times of peace for all, and then
prepare for war." (PC Magazine, September 2008)
● Ex. A member of a hacktivist group was kidnapped in Mexico recently while posting flyers and literature in a public place. The group
responsible for the kidnapping was Zetas, which is regarded as one of the most dangerous and violent of all the Mexican drug cartels.
Hacktivists have rallied together to demand the release of their kidnapped member, threatening to expose the names, identities, and
personal information of the members of the cartel, as well as the corrupt journalists and police officers who aid them. (CNET News)
● Ex. A prominent hacktivist known as "the Jester" has actually helped to aid the U.S. and other countries currently fighting the War on
Terror. "The Jester" is an ex-military member who works to protect the lives of soldiers like himself and promote national security. He has
hacked and taken down websites that were notorious for leaking sensitive and classified documents pertaining to U.S. national security,
and has also attacked and stopped the service of sites that are in line with the "Jihadist" movement- a movement in which radical Islamic
extremist recruit individuals to commit acts of terrorism against the U.S. and our allies. (Infosec Island)
IMPACT: The impact of all of these examples is very clear: hacktivism is doing a great deal to combat and stop war, crime, and terrorism
through many different means. They spread peaceful anti nuclear war messages. They directly challenge violent criminal groups, such as
Mexican drug cartels.


Contention 1: Hacktivism is Civil Disobedience

First of all, we must establish a common ground for our understanding of the term "civil disobedience", otherwise we might just be throwing terms around. I would suggest a definition that states that civil disobedience is the refusal to obey a law that violates an individual right. If we follow that logic any act of violence, force, and/or coercion would not be considered civil disobedience, but an aggression itself. Civil disobedience is a state of resistance, not of perpetration. A person that acts as the initiator of force is not acting in civil disobedience, but to the contrary.

Traditional protests, marches, and rallies are a way to exercise our individual right to express ourselves freely. But if violence, force, and coercion are adopted against another individual right at such protests, then they ought to be considered not only illegal but immoral, and definitely not an act of civil disobedience. In those cases State force must be applied in order to protect the rights of those victimized by the protesters. But, if the State is the initiator of force and use violence and intimidation against a peacefully protest, then we can consider the protest an act of civil disobedience. We must be very careful in determine who is the initiator of force, without that in mind we cannot establish if an unlawful act is an act of civil disobedience or an act of aggression.

Hacktivism by its nature, and by the definition given by the instigator as "an act by a computer hacker whose activity is aimed at promoting a social or political cause", is the perpetrator and the initiator of force. He acts as a hacker against the property and liberty of another individual, which means that he invades private property and limits another individual liberty in order to promote his views; his intentions does not change the fact that he initiated force and abuse. Thus, hacktivism cannot be considered civil disobedience, but an act of aggression.

If Rosa Parks had destroyed the bus to make her point, her act would not be considered of civil disobedience, but of vandalism, even though she was fighting for a good cause. She did not initiate the use of force, thus she acted in civil disobedience. Her actions did not affect anybody else rights, even though it was an unlawful act. An act of civil disobedience must not create any victims in the process. The same rule applies for Dr. Martin Luther King, but not for the Boston Tea Party. Some founding fathers, such as Benjamin Franklin, thought the act was of a lawless mob and suggested that the destroyed tea must be repaid. The fact that actions such as the Boston Tea Party, along with hacktivism, can be done for good causes it is irrelevant to be considered civil disobedience.

Contention 2: Hacktivism Promotes Free Speech & Democracy

How "freedom" of speech is promoted by appealing to "force"? Are not those two words contradictory? Freedom means to be left alone, to have no interference. When a hacktivist defaces a website, for instance, he immediately invades the right of freedom of speech of another individual, or group of individuals. The promotion of freedom requires that everybody respects the freedom of each other, it requires tolerance. I cannot assert my freedom taking away yours. Hacktivism does not promote free speech, to the contrary, it promotes an invasion of freedom and of mob rule. It might also promote something else along the way, such as the good causes you mentioned, but what if I use my hacker skills to promote tyranny? Am I exercising free speech? Apparently, yes. But in reality someone else paid the cost of my speech, so it was not free. If in order to exercise an individual right I deprive someone else of theirs, then I have no right to do so.

Contention 3: Hacktivism Promotes Anti-War, Anti-Crime, & Anti-Terror Causes

If you believe in moral consequentialism, that in a nutshell means to advocate that the "ends justify the means", then it is something for another debate, because that theory can be applied in many situations in life. But even if we consider your argument, nothing in fact suggests that hacktivism promotes anti-war; the intention of the hacktivists to promote such cause does not mean that they achieve it. We must never forget that hacktivism is a tactic, it is not a philosophy. The same way it can be used for the cause of anti-war, it can be used to propagate racism, intolerance, hatred, and even wars. To say that hacktivism promotes those things it is the same as to say that ideology promotes peace, without mentioning which ideology. Again, hacktivism is a tactic not a philosophy.

Final thoughts:

Summarizing all the three points made by the instigator I would not accept that hacktivism does more good than harm. I cannot accept that the initiation of an act of force against another individual or group of individuals it is justified by the intentions behind it. Especially if we are trying to measure the amount of good it can produce in society. That would lead to a lack of respect and tolerance in order to promote a personal sentiment. The same way it would be wrong to steal someone on the street to donate the money to charity, even if that someone is much richer, it is wrong to invade someone's property and deprive him of liberty in order to promote a cause.
Debate Round No. 1
6 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 6 records.
Posted by awesomeness 6 years ago
sorry it is a problem with my computer
Posted by Reid 6 years ago
No, you freaking can't keep it in a paragraph format or something. It's painful to look at.
You break the sentence like
this and
for some reason it gets really annoying
do you see
what i mean
if this keeps going on for
a whole debate when im trying to understand your side without
getting irritated?
Posted by awesomeness 6 years ago
why is it too much
Posted by tvellalott 6 years ago
What is with that formatting? o.O
Great topic though. Will be watching this one.
Posted by Reid 6 years ago
I freaking hate the way his case is structured, giving me a headache.
Posted by vmpire321 6 years ago
I love how this is one round.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by lannan13 6 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: interesting, but it is a tie if not the advantage goes slightly to the Pro