School of Computer and Information Science, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia
A new kind of Internet threat has emerged. Hacking is increasingly being used as a weapon by individuals to promote their political ideologies by engaging in distributed citizen-based warfare. Their aim is to disrupt communications using internet enabled networks and organisations. Examples of these online assaults during 2009 were evident during the Iranian protests and the Melbourne International Film Festival. Such attacks use denial of service techniques and utilised social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube to post links to access hacking instructions. Posts on social networking websites and news stories from a variety of sources online, including official Chinese news websites and news sources from Australia, the United States of America and Britain, were extensively analysed. Medium theory has been used to framework the case studies as it assumes that tools such as the Internet are not neutral and are subject to human agency, and as such is useful for exploring the ways in which the medium has been employed for political purposes by groups outside of governments. An emerging trend for individual activists to engage in new Internet enabled technologies, such as social networking websites, to distribute their political ideologies and engage in online assaults. Hacktivism is justified by these individuals in the interests of promoting freedom of speech, as they perceived that global political or corporate superpowers have denied them this basic human right. Individuals have decided to harness the power of the global Internet medium to express opinions and to promote political ideologies. This new citizen-based warfare is a powerful weapon. In the case of the hack attacks on the Melbourne International Film Festival the hackers’ message was consistent with the position of the Chinese Communist Party, and their line on the Uighur minority in Xinjiang province. The Internet has provided a new frontier for activists to develop powerful distributed strategies, such as hactivism, as a weapon to challenge political ideologies. The consequences of the development of the Internet and harnessing its global reach are increasingly challenging international relations, as was demonstrated during the Melbourne Film Festival. The hackers are in a sense really hacking to support the hegemonic practices of their respective countries, and that this kind of activity represents a new form of civic participation in international relations.