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Human Rights and Hacktivism: The Cases of Wikileaks and Anonymous

This article examines hacktivism/cyberactivism as forms of political mobilization, analyzing their utility in the human rights sphere as mediums with little accountability, using Anonymous and Wikileaks as case studies. Looking with a human rights theory lens at changes in power distribution and vulnerabilities created by this new field, the article considers how traditional power structures have been reversed, with individual citizens now having the power to affect companies, states, and religious groups offline through their online actions. It notes the irony of hacktivism, with its disproportionate ability to impact society without any consensus-building, being unaccountable in jurisdictions that promote human rights because of their allowance of freedom of expression and anonymity. The article also delves into hacktivism’s evolution over time, from being open source spaces to focusing on the extraction or revealing of information and examines the societal impacts of Wikileaks and Anonymous. It finally concludes that cyberactivism challenges traditional human rights theory because it resdistributes vulnerability from individuals fearing the state, to the state and large commercial organizations fearing the individual. Key words: hacktivism, cyberactivism, power, human rights, vulnerability, government
Tom Sorell
Journal of Human Rights Practice
Industry Focus: 
Information & Telecommunication
Internet & Cyberspace