IDP2014 (VI). Internet and politics (I)

Notes from the 10th Internet, Law and Politics Congress: A decade of transformations, organized by the Open University of Catalonia, School of Law and Political Science, and held in Barcelona, Spain, on 3-4 July 2014. More notes on this event: idp2014.

Moderator: Ismael Peña-López Lecturer, School of Law and Political Science (UOC).

Towards a Magna Carta for the Internet: A right to online protests?
Argyro P Karanasiou. Lecturer in Law (Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, CIPPM) – Bournemouth University, UK.

What happens when the Internet does not work?

  • “The day the Internet went dark: major Internet corporations go to strike to protest against laws against Neutrality.
  • “The day that almost broke the Internet”: Spamhaus blackmailed Cyberbunker, by attacking their servers. The whole Internet slew down.

Are DDoS attacks the equivalent of sit-ins? Are DDoS attacks a way to slow down business as usual, as it traditionally happened with sit-ins? Can you occupy cyberspace? It many jurisdictions DDoS is considered a crime — not a sit-in like protest.

  • Benkler: they are sit-ins by design, they are doing it “for the lulz”. It’s distraction, not destruction.
  • Low participatory threshold.
  • No personal cost incurred.
  • No need for technical experiences.
  • The conduct argument: is it free speech? it kind of is.
  • Is it a public protest? It kind of is an expressive boycott.
  • The public forum argument: is it a public forum, or a non designated public forum? Maybe the Internet is a semi-private space and thus DDoS would be an act of trespassing.
  • But DDoS is also against the free speech of others, so…

DDoS is cybotage, with an obstructive nature.

Anonymous Bulgaria: “I like to lumpen lumpen”
Julia Rone. PhD researcher, Department of Social and Political Science, European University Institute, Florence

What is the political potential of Anonymous (in the particular case of Bulgaria and the protests against the government in June 2013).

Origins of hacktivism: hacking community (Stallman); the increasingly prominence of immaterial labour in contemporary society, the multitude which is interconnected (Hardt and Negri); the new social movements (Melucci, Della Porta).

Anonymous has become a very powerful brand, that anyone can use or appropriate, and that has even created inner factions on what to do, how to do things and organize and decide, etc. There are very deep differences (in skills, in attitudes, in ideology) between anonymous groups. In the case of Bulgaria, the most popular group is deeply concerned by national politics.

There is a strive for leaderlessness.

There is also a strive for going against everything.

Where does this fighting everything leads to?

Though sometimes Anonymous do make proposals for new or renewed political systems, very technology centred, but which do not take into account learnings of the past, or what happens with the disconnected ones.

Is Anonymous a real connected multitude in the sense of Hardt and Negri? How are politics articulated under this vision? Can we achieve large consensus? What will happen if the multitude takes power? Will the multitude be destructive? Are there any constructive proposals?


Q: what is the role of anonymity? Can we have a debate with anonymous people? Karanasiou: anonymity is very disenfranchising, and this adds barriers to debate. Rone: anonymity is crucial for Anonymous, and this is about not having a leader, a most important point in their ideology.

Ismael Peña-López: slacktivism usually is backed by deep spaces of deliberation. Are there deliberation spaces behind DDoS attacks or Anonymous actions? Karanasiou: as all these practices take place online, and the Internet is a very powerful space for deliberation. Rone: I do not think that there is a connection, or a deliberation space between Anonymous and the rest of the population. Indeed, there are many “misuses” of the brand of Anonymous.

Q: what do you think about anonymizers and the deep web in general? Karanasiou: it depends on how you use anonymity. If it is to guarantee your freedom of speech, right. But there are strings attached related to legitimacy, etc. So you have to assume this cost. Rone: there are ethics and rules in the group, but you have to work to keep them from being misused.


10th Internet, Law and Politics Conference (2014)

If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2014) “IDP2014 (VI). Internet and politics (I)” In ICTlogy, #130, July 2014. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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