The prolific Mike Masnick over at TechDirt points to a few links that compare the recent DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) to a “sit-in”. Is Operation Payback A Crime… Or Just The Modern Equivalent Of A Sit In?

My immediate thought when reading the title was that it is a crime. After reading the articles, I came to a different conclusion.

My thoughts are centric to the USA. I believe comparing it to sit-ins, is a very good analogy. In the era of connectivity, the virtual world is melding with the real world and it is an interesting question.

As far as DDoS, I don’t endorse such tactics. They seem more aggressive than a sit-in. I would consider participating in a sit-in but would want no part in a DDoS. I totally agree with Mike Masnick’s and Evgeny Morozov thoughts regarding a DDoS as likely ending less than well. People are being arrested. It might not be the best way to make a statement. However, I should also note, at least one court, in Germany, has actually ruled that an “online demonstration” is not coercion. Doubt we will hear any decisions like that in the USA.

As far as any positive change coming from it, I think it not likely. Instead, it will be used as an argument for less anonymousness and privacy in the web world. I am sure the phrase “in the interest of national security” will be involved and our leaders will come up with some half baked solution. Maybe they will create “Free Hack Zones”?

People get arrested at sit-ins as well. Sit-ins are also illegal, that is unless you one of our designated “Free Speech Zones” which are, in my opinion, a violation of the First Amendment. These “zones” are something Uncle Sam created to appease us.

You see sit-ins are an act of civil disobedience. They always have been. You always ran the risk of being arrested or possibly even worse. Your defense was your right to free speech and expression. Now you legally have that right in certain zones. But I digress, maybe I will draft “Land of the Free in Certain Zones” to complete my thoughts on the zoning of The Bill of Rights.

I think most common descriptive trait that “hack-ins” and sit-ins have in common is the fact that they are acts of civil disobedience.

Sit-ins are done to make a point and draw attention to a cause. A good one would get you on the evening news. I am writing this because a hack-in was in the news. I see a good parallel there. They both draw attention to a cause. If enough people have empathy for the cause, it does get noticed.

Sit-ins are an event where event where you made sure your “freak flag” is flying, you expected to get arrested but you are willing to because you were going to “get the word out” and “take down the man”. Enough people were “fed up” or “sick of it” to unite and demonstrate. Now re-read the first sentence of this paragraph but substitute “hack-in” for “sit-in” and “hack flag” for “freak flag”, pretty similar eh?

I do not feel that peaceful protests in America have actually accomplished that much. Historically, peaceful movements usually don’t end peacefully. Change occurs when civil disobedience either actually does erupt into violence or the threat is so great that some type of change occurs. Disruption of service is, at the very least, aggressive. I could view it as a form of cyber-violence. Don’t we describe it as an attack or cyber warfare?

Like it or not, legal or illegal, various forms of protest and civil disobedience have always been part of the politic process in the USA and elsewhere in the world. If a DDoS or any other type of cyber attack is launched by like-minded individuals and it is for some cause, I can not view it as anything other than some newer form of civil disobedience. Furthermore, if there are like-minded individuals out there who do view it as such, it has already become such.

Getting back to what this will lead to… who knows, I don’t think the first sit-ins were looked on in a positive light. Time desensitizes us to such things. Our American culture simply came to accept them. I think most people still view any type of cyber attack or, if you wish, hack-ins, in a negative light. Time changes things though and we will have to see.

Sit-ins and marches were a big part of the civil rights movements in America. They were, at that time, acts of defiance. They did influence and help foster change. Only time will tell if a hack-in will create any type of movement. In this case, what “cause” is Operation Payback fighting for?

I am not going to answer that question. That is my point. Most people who hear about this will not make any association other than it being a hack attack. I am not saying that there is no cause or purpose. I am saying that it will not be seen.

I am pretty certain that there was no way to pull a permit in Boston that would allow one to dress as Indians and toss tea in the harbor. The pamphlet “Common Sense” was “Written by and Englishman” to avoid persecution. Rosa Parks was committing a defiant act that was illegal.

The illegal acts I just mentioned all have very clear causes associated with them. At the time they occurred, they were a radical departure from the norm and status quo. They worked because they shook things up and drew more people to a cause. Clearly, they were worthy acts of civil disobedience that led to positive change.

So is Operation Payback a modern day sit-in? Possibly, but I think it inadequately identifies with any cause and will be viewed by more in a negative light than positive. I don’t see it gaining support and creating any type of movement for whatever cause it is supposed to be associated with.

It will be associated with “hackers” and “pirates”. It is not going to help with any noble cause. In that sense, it will fail as a sit-in. Sit-ins drew attention to a cause, Operation Payback is not going to be remembered that way. It will be remembered as a hack attack.