This week’s topic is cyberpolitics and cyberactivism which have been facilitated by new technologies. Political activism is not a new concept. There have been many public demonstrations and protests prior to new communication technologies that can be traced all the way back to the French revolution and more recently Tiananmen Square, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Arab Spring in 2011. However, activism need not be focused on politics; it can also be focused on social change or raise attention to economic or environmental issues (Sandoval- Almazan & Garcia 2014, p. 366).
Sandoval-Almazan & Garcia (2014, p. 367) define activism as a group of people that come together to share ideas to achieve a common goal. The introduction of the web 1.0 gave citizens communication channels to come together to form friendships, fundraise, form lobby groups and plan political activism events which are considered “Cyberactivism 1.0” (Sandoval- Almazan & Garcia 2014, p. 367). Political groups could go online and discuss issues on discussion boards or distribute information through email and newsletters to organize and plan physical demonstrations. The internet gave lobby and interest groups a voice and a platform to share their thoughts and have their voices heard on a global scale. Activists no longer needed to rely on the media for attention as they could now more effectively organize and share information on their own (Knight & Cook 2013, p.152). The internet began to be used to support political or social activism but the act of protest or demonstration took place in physical locations around the globe.
Next came social media or web 2.0 where internet users could create their own website, content and share media and led to what can be considered cyberactivism 2.0 or “hacktivism” (Sandoval-Almazan & Garcia 2014,p. 368). This marked a paradigm shift in thinking as the internet became a place to not only connect with likeminded people but to also make an impact and protest with the use of technology online in cyberspace rather than at organized public demonstrations.
Sandoval-Almazan et. Al (2014, p. 368) believe that there are three stages to cyber activism: the use of internet to promote an objective or group, the use of the internet as the method of achieving an objective and the third stage is cyberterrorism. The collective action taken by groups or individuals can cause disturbance through online civil disobedience, website and hardware hacking and pranks and collective online trolling (Milan & Hintz 2013, p. 15). The most famous (or infamous depending on your perspective) hacking group is Anonymous. Just like the group ‘Anonymous’, cyber activist groups tend to have a flat hierarchy system where there is no leader or person in charge and operate by group mentality and group consensus. The groups also tend to have a shared common goal and an anti-authority or anti-establishment stance (Milan & Hintz 2013, p. 16).
Sandoval-Almazan & Garcia (2014, p. 367) believe that these groups support democracy and free speech because they offer a safe place for resistance and expression as well as the idea of community and the sharing of ideas. Milan & Hintz (2013, p. 16) do not agree and see cyber activism as eroding democracy because they are intervening in the process of politics and policy making. Their opinion is made clear when they question how an organisation without a hierarchical structure could function.
In the video included below Anonymous explain that any group member can recommend a new campaign or rally for a common cause that benefits humankind. If the group agrees then the message or campaign is taken up. If not, the idea is rejected. They also state that whilst they aim to choose ideological campaigns to benefit mankind, “it does not mean there are not bad actions as presented as coming from Anonymous” thus excusing and attempting to justify their sometimes illegal cyber activities that hack, troll or disturb website of government and corporations.
The short video below attempts to explain what Anonymous is.
Knight, M Cook, C 2013, ‘Social media for journalists:principles and practice’ Sage Publications, London
Milan, S & Hintz, A 2013, ‘Networked collective action and the institutionalized policy debate: Bringing cyberactivism to the policy arena?, Policy and Internet, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 7-27, viewed 05 August 2017, via Wiley Online Library
Sandoval-Almazan, R & Gil-Garcia, J 2014, ‘Towards cyberactivism 2.0? Understanding the use of social media and other information technology for political activism social movements, Government Information Quarterly, vol. 31, p. 365-378, viewed 05 August 2017, via ScienceDirect database