Creating Technology for Social Change

The State of the Research: DDOS and Doxxing

My work on my final project for Intro to Civic Media, an examination of the ethics of activist distributed denial of service attacks, continues apace. I’ve got a good pile of primary sources from groups that have historically engaged in activist DDOS actions, including the Electronic Disturbance Theater and the electrohippies, as well as my ever growing stash of Anonymous-related materials. I’m also looking more deeply into some recent DDOS actions in Russia, as well as older actions like the etoys action in 1999 and the “help-israel-win” campaign (Ethan has a good write up about that campaign here). This paper is about drawing an ethical spectrum that can be applied to DDOS actions, so I want to be sure to include actions that are ethically indefensible as well as those that are ethically appropriate uses of the tactic, and those that muddle around somewhere in the middle. If anyone has any ideas for sources I should be looking at or actions I should explore, please let me know!

As part of this research I am also looking at the history and ethics of other disruptive protest tactics, both online and off. I’m planning to write a paper next term on website defacements, and I’ve recently become fascinating with the doxxing, the practice of revealing the legal identity of an anonymous or pseudonymous individual without their consent, usually (in the modern practice) in a cultural context that encourages physical-world harassment. We’ve had some great discussions about doxxing in my hacker culture reading group at the Berkman Center, and another fellow and I are planning to do a small presentation on the topic in December. I’m particularly interested in how doxxing differs culturally from outing and from investigative journalistic practices (such as those demonstrated by Adrian Chen in his recent Gawker article), how doxxing has evolved from a community self-policy practice to a tool of harassment aimed at the online public a large, and its implications for free speech policy online. I’m looking forward to getting a chance to give this topic some serious thought.