Friday, March 11, 2011


The issues of copyright, fair use and piracy have always been a big problem in today’s society. There are so many concerns and arguments that arise on all aspects of these issues; it’s hard to even determine where to start.
It is so easy to bootleg a movie or DVD and to create and sell counterfeit items and sell them to make money off of someone else’s ideas or work. There are certain ways to use other people’s material and ideas without completely stealing them, or taking credit for something that you didn’t create. Everyone is different, so why be like someone else and steal their ideas?
I guess the answer is simple. The internet has made downloading and using copyrighted material much easier than before. This is why it is such a downfall for artists and other creators who have their material copied. These laws and policies have been made for a reason. They help prevent the stealing from occurring in the first place.

To address both sides of the coin, I believe that it is a tough topic to touch on. Many people who use copyrighted material in a video or other work don’t have any idea that they are doing wrong, and if they do, it has no effect on them. If I wanted to use copyrighted material in any of my work, I would make sure to find a way to not do it illegally. Although it may be more difficult to make sure that I am following all the rules for using copyrighted material in my work, it is way more beneficial than being in trouble for carelessness.
I do admit that I do use limewire and other cites to download movies and music, who hasn’t? It’s easy and it’s free! What more could you ask for? So I guess I have failed victim to piracy. I do believe that the internet though is causing a major problem with killing the creative industries like music and movies. It makes these people lose money because their works are being copied and sold or even downloaded for free. At least iTunes makes you pay for each song in order to download it, but even then there is ways around it.
I have to agree with this part of the piracy article for several reasons as stated above. It goes to show how easy it really is to copyright material and the fine line that exists between copyright and uncopyrighted.
“Today we are in the middle of another "war" against "piracy." The Internet has provoked this war. The Internet makes possible the efficient spread of content. Peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing is among the most efficient of the efficient technologies the Internet enables. Using distributed intelligence, p2p systems facilitate the easy spread of content in a way unimagined a generation ago. This efficiency does not respect the traditional lines of copyright. The network doesn't discriminate between the sharing of copyrighted and uncopyrighted content. Thus has there been a vast amount of sharing of copyrighted content. That sharing in turn has excited the war, as copyright owners fear the sharing will "rob the author of the profit."
I don’t believe that the remixing and reposting of copyrighted material outweigh the harms for several reasons. Everyday people have to pay money for all the material they steal, and jail time can even be served. These policies are not easy to understand so I can see where people have difficulty when dealing with them.
I do believe that the laws were made for a reason and are fair to a certain extent. There are issues with these laws though. Some of them go too far because instead of punishing the people who are doing the downloading, they should be directing their attention to taking down the websites that are creating these illegal activities to happen.
Lessig’s points about the historical goals of copyright are extremely involved. He explained how the laws created in the 1790’s were established for 14 years. They were enforced to protect the individual before the publishers.
The goals in today’s society are to protect both the publishers and creators of the work. It is constantly changing, as well as the laws and technology. The policies now are more accurate to the cultural changes than the time before.
There were many points of interest that came up in the readings and videos this week. There were also lots of questions that are left unanswered.
Is there any way that piracy and copyright will ever stop? Or is it better if we just let it be? Who is ultimately at fault with illegal downloads of music and movies?

This link gives all the updated copyright laws and also ones from the past, including the ones form 1790.

New prompt: Cyberwar

Here's an updated word cloud of our class blogs so far!

We continue this week with more on Hacktivism, but now taking it to a much deeper and more political level as we examine it in the context of war. In particular, we look at ways that the internet and it use (or abuse) can have a real impact on the lives of whole societies of people.

This week with your post, we'll do something a little different. First, this will be a bit of an open post in which you should take a reasoned position on an aspect of hacktivism and cyberwar; that is, argue for a particular point of view related to the topic. So, for example, is Wikileaks valuable to democracy? Does Wikileaks undermine democracy? Are distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks a fair way to engage in "war," especially compared to traditional war? Or more dangerous? Etc.

THEN, when you comment on a classmate's blog, play DEVIL'S ADVOCATE to their position. In other words, how can you challenge their points, or come up with reasonable alternatives to their position? Has the poster overlooked an important point?

Let's get some real discussion going this week.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

iPhone Girl Victim of Human-Flesh Search

     The young woman you see here is the "victim" of a human-flesh search. Her photo was mistakenly left on an iPhone that ended up in the hands of a customer, and he now wants to know who she is. It's not because he's mad, he's just curious!
     The case of the Cat Bin Lady is driven by justice. Taking into account that this happened in China, I'd have to guess that this is a way for the people to take justice in to their own hands, without going through the government. And I have to agree with what they did.
     There is a fine line though. Yes, what the Cat Bin Lady did was wrong - go ahead and hunt her and the cameraman down. But be careful, because if you do something illegal in turn, that's just as bad. If you take into consideration that consequences of going too far, I think that this human-flesh search engine is a really good thing. It really is a way to expose something that "isn't right".
     You might ask, how do you know it's "not right"? A video, a comment, a plot, whatever it may be is likely to offend someone, so they comment on it. If the "majority" of people agree, they'll also comment and help investigate. If they don't agree with the offended user, they won't reply and/or won't help the cause. It's that simple.
     I also feel that this form of search can be used for less-serious reasons as well, like the iPhone Girl. (Read the article here: ) As mentioned before, the cell phone user doesn't want to punish her for having the picture on the phone, he just wants to know who she is! By reaching out to other users on the internet, you can quickly come up with an answer, just by asking around, and passing on a message. It all depends on what you're trying to achieve!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


     Hacktivism is the act of hacking into a computer system for a motivated purpose.  In Brenna Erlich’s The Ballad of Cat Bin Lady: The Internet’s Latest Viral Villian, a surviellance video caught a woman placing a cat into a grabage bin.  This video was virally leaked on the Internet and soon she was identified as Mary Bale.  Her explanation was “I really don’t see what everyone is getting so excited about – it’s just a cat. I was walking home from work and saw this cat wander out in front of me. I don’t know what came over me, but I suddenly thought it would be funny to put it in the wheelie bin, which was right beside me.”  Subsequently, some of her personal information was leaked, death threats were made, and a Facebook page was created to destroy her public image.  Does this wrongful action deserve such ruthless personal destruction?

     In my opinion, hacktivisim is an effective means to achieving justice because it allows offenders to be punished without violating human or civil rights.  If Mary Bale was caught on a security tape in the act, then truth is discovered.  It was wrong for her to treat another life with such disrespect.  However, the personal deprication she suffered is not justified.  If she was found guilty of such a crime, people should certainly not make death threats or spread personal information (even though this was available online).  Instead, they should allow her to be found guilty in a court of law.  This is the only way to true justice.

     The entire issue shows us that political protest and demonstartions are easier than ever.  People can quickly communicate ideas and truth through the Internet to the masses.  The Internet provides grounds for many new forms of political protesting, encourages people to speak freely, and poses many difficulties for regulating such acts.

Actively Hack...Hactively Act

The kitten stomping story is too much for me too talk about because it really truly bothers me. So I will try to refer more to the cat in the bin lady. Even though I found that to be pretty damn messed up also, it sort of made me giggle. No offense to anyone else that might have taken great offense. Understandable.

^^That’s funny. Don’t deny it. =p (well you would’ve had to watch the actual crime video first though. (here))

After reading all these articles, I think hactivism is a very cool concept. But I also believe that there are pros and cons. It’s definitely not an all WINNING (Sheen -- ha!) concept.

It is great that “human-flesh search engines” can find insane people, but things can get out of hand with stalking issues and vandalism and all sorts of other privacy issues. The pro is that they can find that terrible person but the con is that it DOES violate civil or human rights to some extent.

Yes, hacktivism is/can be effective, obviously from simply reading the examples in our articles. Things can go viral within minutes of a posting online on a popular forum, especially in tech savvy countries like China. Not only that, but most countries (minus USA) have common morals and beliefs and cultures, therefore it is less likely to have multiple debating parties. For example, if I’m I go on a Middle Eastern Muslim online forum and post that I know someone that burned a Quran in the locality, than there would be outrage, whereas if I posted that in an American online forum somewhere, it would be debated and tossed around, perhaps even ignored because of all the mixed cultures and beliefs. And this is also why I don’t believe more international regulation is possible, too many people think alike in these designated foreign countries, they are much more united where they can overthrow something and not be insanely affected.

In our world with the major influx of information readily available, sometimes we are bombarded so much that we often don’t know what to think about what we see. For example, the cat in the bin thing and sad to say even the stomping thing, it is clearly animal cruelty but it can be comical to a lot of us. Mixed messages are spread around the U.S.

Point is, it is/can be effective depending on where exactly it is taking place, which country, what website, and what audience.

As far as political protest online, I feel it would definitely allow for more open discussion, easier approach to invite and gather large groups of people (Egypt protests), and immediate feedback. However, it would also allow idiots to be able to express their opinions easier, spam to spread, and unauthorized pages and profiles.

I’m not against hactivism although it can get out of hand, I believe it allows transparency and openness of discussion and opinions (even where it is not allowed). As we come of age, develop new technologies and generations grow, we communicate more through cyberspace, so it is inevitable that hacktivism isn’t going to keep growing. It would just be smart to learn about it before diving in, so it can be done more effectively.

Flesh Search Engine vs. Due Process

Being and animal lover, and just an all around decent human being, I found myself cheering as I read the China’s Cyberposse and the Evil Cat Lady articles. Here, justice was done, and better than that, we policed ourselves – no police, no FBI, no government interference, just a few concerned citizens using some of their skills and “outing” a person in public for their wicked deeds. What could possibly be wrong with that?

After all, these cases were pretty cut and dry, we had photographic evidence, we saw a crime being committed, real simple. But is it always just that simple? Our readings this week also highlights the potential dangers to this form of “outing” as well, illustrated by the story of the Chinese official in the restaurant. Did he do something wrong? Actually, we don’t know; all we truly have is a short one-sided video clip, and a partial conversation. Truth be told, the crime that angered the Flesh Search Engine mob, and the one for which he was convicted in their eyes, was the crime of arrogance. The justice exacted on this man at the hands of this mob had nothing to do with any crime being committed, but rather a distaste of the man’s character.

Could he have been trying to molest that girl? Could he be corrupt? Sure, he could be all this and more; however, the fact remains that none of that was ever proven. Lacking any proof, I find it hard to justify what was done to this man.

What I also find interesting is that this modern way of “outing” the bad guys in pubic has significant historical roots. The Greeks called it ostracism, and it was in interesting perversion of the judicial system of due process. In most court cases you name the person, the crime, then you weigh the evidence. Ostracism is unique in that 1) Somebody is automatically guilty, 2) The person is named (by vote, not evidence), and 3) When the voting is done, that’s it no appeal. The person was then removed from society, no judge, no trial, and no appeal. Can we really call this type of system justice, even if we get the “bad guys”?

I think in my life how many times I’ve either walked in on a partial conversation, or saw something I was certain of, which caused me to make a judgment about a situation or a person. Only to find out later that I had it all wrong.

The Flesh Search Engine is a large mass, once that mass gets moving in a certain direction; it’s awfully hard to stop. As appealing as vigilante justice or ostracism handed down by the Flesh mob may be, the danger that lurks at it heart is the lack of due process and its “guilty until proven innocent” philosophy, and that is not justice.

"take hacktion!"

The Cat Bin Lady ordeal proves how fickle hacktivists can be. (This is not the first time 4chan has da/b/bled in feline justice.)

They seem to choose something arbitrarily and spin it on a whim. A woman throwing a cat into a garbage can is a heinous act, no doubt, and the netizens chose to treat it as one. But what about shooting policemen? Is that not a heinous act? Netizens think not.

Raoul Moat, who died in a shoot-out with police offers, was paraded as a hero on Facebook. Now if these groups operated on any consistent moral standard, how could they vilify the Cat Bin Lady while also putting a murderer on a pedestal? Maybe it’s our propensity to admire outlaws, as one article suggests. In any case, it is still a clear example of the inconsistency in the net's brand of "justice." These scattered initiatives are partly due to the disjointed nature of these "groups." Many are considered "groups," but in the loosest of ways. In truth, they are often just people who happen to be walking in the same direction.

Perhaps this inconsistency in moral code hints at the amorality within these groups. Could it be these groups are more interested in the availability and spread of information, without regard to its actual content? This certainly pertains to WikiLeaks and the groups supporting it.

Either way, there is certainly a power to hacktivism, and seemingly not much being done to thwart it. While 4chan's efforts are misguided, they still prove how powerful a more specific, goal-oriented group could be.

The smaller, but still leaderless, group Anonymous is certainly an example of that. Their actions have had more measurable and distinct effects. Not just on specific individuals, but on large organizations like HBGary Federal.

This symbol probably won't mean much to most people, but here's my random reference of the day: The thinking behind Anonymous reminds me of a fictional group called Individual 11 from the anime Ghost in the Shell (SAC: 2nd Gig, to be more specific.) Wikipedia's description of the Individual 11 is a perfectly fitting one for groups like Anonymous: "an organization constructed by a Stand Alone Complex - a group of self-interested individuals with no connection or ties to each other but unconsciously and collectively act towards the common purpose of revolution."

Justice is served?

Having born witness (though never participating) to hacktivism on more than one occasion, it's both one of the most amazing and frightening things you'll ever see in your life. On the one hand, it's truly bizarre to see such a large, widespread group all dedicated to the accomplishment of one single task, but it's a little sobering when you remember that once things come down to it, that one task is ruining someone's very existence.

Take the case of Mary Bale, for example. A woman spots a cat while walking down the street and pets it...then promptly drops it in a garbage can and walks off. Of course, this is unquestionably an act of animal cruelty and Bale should receive punishment for her actions, but the extent to which the internet came down upon her is a tad extreme.

From one perspective, 4chan identified Bale very shortly after the video was posted, managing to do in just a few hours what would likely have taken local law enforcement much longer, or perhaps not at all. And yet, by taking matters into their own hands, they've forced much more intense punishment on Bale than would have been inflicted by the police. In addition to any punishment handed down by the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Bale's been publicly shamed by the internet, with her face permanently marked as that of the "cat bin lady". Reviled and mocked ruthlessly by users all over the globe, and even sent death threats which led to her receiving police protection, Bale's name has been permanently marred all because a few people watched a video of her making one bad decision.

Which ultimately leads to the biggest problem with "internet justice": there's no way of regulating it. With enough support, anyone with a grudge can organize an attack on whoever they want and administer a punishment as harsh as they want. Even if the victim doesn't deserve it, or hasn't done anything wrong other than offering a different opinion, they still run the risk of being treated like a hardened criminal by those who organize an attack. And if someone were to actually follow through with those death threats and a person dies just because someone on the internet disagreed with them, can one really say that justice has been served?

I don't think so.


When the FBI is handing American tax dollars to a company to do a job, I fully expect that company to do a good job. However, if that company fails to do its job and engages in some shady extracurricular activities, it should be open season.

In this scenario, the security company HBGary was looking to expose a group of hackers known as Anonymous bit off more than it could chew. The company was planning on selling information that was "publicly available via our IRC networks," stated Anonymous. In response to the threat, Anonymous planned to "give it to them for free," and then some. They "compromised the company's website, gained access to the documents that HBGary had collected on its members, and published more than 60,000 of HBGary's emails to BitTorrent." They also hacked into the CEO's Twitter and LinkedIn accounts and posted his social security number and other personal information about him.

While this is extreme, I definitely find hacktivism to be an effective means of protest. Anonymous proved their point and the message is simple. In the famous words of Tyler Durden: "The people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances. We guard you while you sleep. Do not... f*** with us." Like I said, what Anonymous did was extreme. Posting the social security number and other personal information about the CEO of a company most certainly violates civil rights. There should not be more international regulation, because it's not possible, and any attempts at such regulation would simply be adding fuel to the hacker fire. These people are smart, and when a group of them feel threatened, they band together and unleash their fury on anyone who opposes them.

It should be up to the companies to protect their websites from being hacked into and turned into a spot for political protest. The governments of the world have their hands full with all of their bureaucracy and red tape and trying to create cyber police for this purpose would create a big mess. It would be impossible to find people and would take even more tax dollars and time to prosecute anyone for hacking and posting. Even if new security and regulation comes about, hackers will find a way around it, whatever that may be. They will find new ways to protest and voice their opinions, and it will be up to everyone else to react accordingly.

H.C.U.R. (Hactivists Creating Ugly Results)

Hactivism, an idea of activism on the web that seeks to advance a cause or stage a protest is, in my opinion, SHAMEFUL.

Not only is it shameful when people feel obligated and/or entitled into hacking into the opponents' computer systems or websites to promote and/or change ideals, but because people tend to get very malicious about it which can lead to individuals (like Mary Beal, the cat-bin lady) getting injured or even killed over incidents that shouldn't get blown out of proportion.

When it comes to more traditional forms of activism like demonstrations, letter-writing, or even coups, people seem favor the web over these tactics since it is more readily available, can reach enormous amounts of people in short time, and because people can remain anonymous.

Going further, when examining the nature of ethics as it relates to hacktivism, I believe that the issue isn't a matter of the 'hacker' being right or wrong, but merely, is this type of hactivism truly being warranted -OR- does this individual truly deserve this.

Consider Mary Beal, the 45-year-old woman who thought it was funny to put someone else's cat in a trash bin. Did Beal strike the cat? No. Did Beal throw the cat around? No. For the sake of the cat, Beal did threaten its livelihood by putting it in the trash bin, but my point is that she did not maliciously harm the cat in any way. Yet, hacktivists went online and created a Facebook group called, "Cat Lady should to time in a bin," which was liked by almost 998 people -at the time- and resulted in her address and boss' number being posted in different forums thoughout the web.

This is totally unethical, especially since all the backlash ended up in Beal receiving death threats and police protection.

What makes the matter even more controversial is that she recognized that she committed a silly act of animal cruelty and apologized for her actions. My perspective is that Beal could have been murdered because of all the backlash and hate she received before even admitting fault and recognizing that she truly committed a mistake.

Everyone's not perfect and as humans, we all have been a part of an act of sillyness during our lives, but when it gets to the point where lives are being threatened due to our sillyness, the issue becomes a matter of seriousness and life and death.

The only time I see hactivism as being positive is when a cause or issue is being promoted for the betterment of the people, like for uncovering dishonest political affiliates or even companies who have scammed a large amount of people. Still, even supporting those types of hactivism are tricky issues to deal with at surface level.

All in all, hacktivism is better left untouched. There will always be someone upset at someone else for any particular reason (boyfriend hitting a girlfriend, people engaged in dogfighting, individuals who have spreaded STDs, etc) but that doesn't mean to expose them so badly that their lives could be put at risk for their actions. It is the police's job to handle and jail individuals for their wrongful, unjustly, and criminal behaviors.

So, let them (police) do their job.

The world is already crazy enough.

Hackers on STEROIDZ

One of the best examples of hacktivism from this weeks readings would be the Anonymous attack on HBGary following the investigation into them after their attacks on the financial service companies.


First and foremost, Anonymous once again goes all out in their attempts to free information on the internet. They attacked businesses who tried to retaliate against wikileaks, and now attacked those who try to stop them from doing the same to others. They even did it by providing all of their information that HBGary was collecting for the FBI for free. While their actions may certainly embody the American ideal of free speech, hacktivism being international in scope does not downplay the seemingly lofty ethical implications these attacks have. It's arguable that free speech should be a universal thing, and with the internet permeating every inch of the globe, it will only become easier. Besides, it would seem that certain institutions don't enjoy free speech all that much, hence the harsh and wild attempts to censor wikileaks in the first place.

So, do they violate civil rights? I'd say in the case of downloading, reading, and distributing thousands of emails and private documents from HBGary, they certainly did. But, through their actions they made clear a firm stance to not be messed with. You try to silence them, they have the means to hurt you in many ways beyond physical violence.

Hacktivism What is it?

Hacktivism – What does this actually mean? From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The term hacktivistm was first used by designer/author Jason Sack in a 1995 InfoNation article about the media artist Shu Lea Cheang.

If hacking as "illegally breaking into computers" is assumed, then hacktivism could be defined as "the nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends". These tools include web site defacements, redirects, denial-of-service attacks, information theft, web site parodies, virtual sit-ins, and virtual sabotage.[3] Acts of hacktivism are carried out in the belief that proper use of code will be able to produce similar results to those produced by regular activism or civil disobedience. Can often be misconstrued as cyberterrorism.

I believe it is a mean of protest or achieving justice. This happens right here in Michigan, look at the little girl dying from Trenton it was on twitter, Face Book, just to name a few.

Due to the Outrage of everyone the neighbor was finally brought to justice.

It this it what it takes to bring folks that are un-human to justices then so be it, as long as everyone doesn't take the law into there own hands. .


Human Flesh Search Engine? I feel that this idea is crazy. The fact that it was allowed is a surprise to me. I know that there are many videos on the internet that people seem as unethical and that the cat examples that we read are the extremes of them. The fact that people do this though and then put it on the internet is the reason why all the hate comes towards them. I feel that since they are dumb enough to put it out there for everyone to see then it is fair game for people to use their resources to punish them. They also should be taken care of by the proper authorities or government because the acts they did are completely wrong and deserve to be stopped.

We Will Strip You Off Your Privacy!

The term human flesh search reminds me of gore horror films in which skin is either eaten or removed in a torturing way while the victim is still alive. That is exactly how victims of human flesh searches are treated whether they are justifiably guilty or not. These people are stripped off their skin-in this case, their personal information and privacy-for apparent justified revenge. The revenge ranging from cheating husbands and suicide to unmasking political corruption. Human flesh search can lead to modifying public behavior, but, nonetheless, it has extremely distressing consequences for the victims, guilty or not.

Downey discusses several cases that were avenged by human flesh search. The most notably one was of Wang Jiao, the cat killer. The human flesh search served to raise awareness of animal issues and rights in China. A country that lacks animal protection laws. However, it had a double-edge sword, forcing Ms. Wang to move out her town due to harassment. On the extreme, it ruined the lives of Wang Fei and his mistress, Dong Fang, by harassing them to the point where they lost their jobs and could have made them unemployable for a long time. Further, it caused distressed to bystanders such as Mr. Wang's family. The frustration of people over Jiang Yang is understandable and her story served as an example to other couples and women being cheated on, but the human flesh searchers (or strippers) took it personal, and unleashed a serious revenge on the husband. The drive behind all this drama lies at the thirst for vengeance of those who want justice and personalize it to the point of doing evil, just as Feng states at the end of the article.

On the other hand, human flesh searching a rapist or other criminals serve to help catch them and make them pay for their crimes. Nonetheless, sacrificing the private life of other rightful citizens over what is the duty of the state is not justifiable. It can even be said that tampering with the privacy of citizens in such an extreme way is a civil rights issue. It can leave people unemployable, physically displaced, emotionally disturbed, and unable to function for fear of retribution, such as the examples of the Ms Wang, the cat killer, Mr. Wang , and Deibao. Thus, it can take away the liberty of being a member of society with all its rewards.

According to Downey, human flesh search is like Facebook or Twitter for us. It gathers large numbers of people to share information. However, it is remarkably different in that it is much more anonymous than social networking. Thus, enabling people to abuse others without specific ramifications. With that said, regulation can be extremely difficult at the international level because of the political connotations it has when a nations asks another sovereign nation to censor its citizens. Moreover, the technicalities of censoring the web are endangered by the ever growing number of internet aficionados that quickly find ways to get around blocked content. Legal sanctions to those who abuse the privacy of other citizens can be instated but that tampers with their freedom of speech and it may not be effective given the expertise of many users of remaining anonymous online. Therefore, we find ourselves in a crossroads when devising of plan for protecting the privacy of citizens.

Nonetheless, Downey informs us that the wave of bashing is moving from private to public lives. For example, searches are focusing more on political things such as corruption or unpatriotic citizenry than on private lives. This can potentially serve for political and social reformation in certain issues. For instance, officials may reconsider their behavior in public and may deter them from corrupted dealings. Yet, there is a fine line in remaining objective with the target and plainly doing malicious things to them. Users may become more and more vicious as they take it more personal, and begin doing evil things to others just like Feng fell deeper into taking revenge on Diebao's "bashers."

Remaining objective when human flesh searching is key for the successful use of it as a social and political tool. This begins at the user level rather than at the legal stance. While laws serve the common good of people, in the online world they run the danger of becoming tools of political and governmental repression (unless it is used for the protection of sexually exploited children, against terrorism, and other detrimental activities). Users can begin by stating rules that limit the type of information and bashing they do for the human flesh searches. These are open to dissent and may invite violations but, at least, it is a start. Another idea is giving victims the ability to have all of their information gathered through the human flesh searches removed by law. The issue that arises from this is what is allowed to be removed (and its exploitation by the government) and it also may not be compensatory for the vast damages that it can cause. Lastly, it is an issue of having conscience and self control when bashing others. We should limit ourselves to go as far as we feel comfortable if it were happening to us and using it for public purposes, not infringe in private lives.

Hacktivism isn't Serving Justice

Our world generally spends too much time worrying about what others are doing before thinking about themselves.  It is extremely out-of-line when everyone thinks they can play an authority figure.  The hacktivism dealing with the Cat Lady is an example of unknown people pretending to be authority figures.  What ever happened to good Samaritans?  If these hacktivists discovered Mary Bale and tipped her location to the police, then they would be doing justice.  However, they went to extreme measures to punish her much worse than the petty crime she committed.

"Stupid, petty crime + Bizarre Circumstances = Public Dismemberment/Viral Gold"
-The Ballad of Cat Bin Lady, Brenna Ehrlich

What makes this hacktivism worse is the fact that the hacktivists are anonymous.  No one can equally pull their dirt because technically they do not exist.  However, the "villains" are not spared anything.  Their addresses, phone numbers, and jobs are plastered all over the net for internet thugs everywhere to harass them.  This is not justice.  This is simply ignoring civil rights.  Not even the police disclose this information about felons.  If things continue in this manner, any one of us could wind up being prey to hacktivism for something minuscule.  I think the least hacktivists could do is expose themselves so we can put a name to the "hero."  It really should not be one-sided when it gets so dangerous as to cause someone to go into police protection.

We Need The Netizen!

     First, the extreme brilliance must be mentioned in the image use for Anonymous to security firm working with FBI: "You've angered the hive."  The “V for Vendetta” example is fantastic! 
     Now, on to the issue of China’s Human-flesh search engines.  It must be said that I am not some tree-hugging hippie, or PETA supporter, but I found this appalling. 
I knew videos and images like this have been circulating the Internet since its inception, I just chose not to associate myself with such horror.  Videos with content such as:   

A middle-aged Asian woman dressed in a leopard-print blouse, knee-length black skirt, stockings and     silver stilettos standing next to a riverbank. She smiles, holding a small brown and white kitten in her hands. She gently places the cat on the tiled pavement and proceeds to stomp it to death with the sharp point of her high heel.

     Should be policed, removed, and the culprit reprimanded!  I see no issue in demanding an “eye for an eye,” in this form of protest.    Find her and kick her to death like she did to the kitten.  This is only a larger scale of social network stupidity.  Would a hacktivist post this video on their Facebook?  I assume they would.  It offers the same ramifications as drug abuse, naked photos, or binge drinking images.  The only difference is a video posted anonymously is slightly more difficult to trace.  Slightly, meaning it can still be done!  What I find difficult to believe is people’s inability to comprehend that content posted to the Internet can be traced!  Do we need cyber police, or in this article Netizens, in the case of animal abuse, yes!  In this particular case, before even arriving to the issue of mainstream media, I thought, “Doesn’t someone recognize this woman?”  Sure enough, upon further reading, in a country of one billion people,   I know this woman,” wrote I’m Not Desert Angel four days after the search began. “She’s not in Hangzhou. She lives in the small town I live in here in northeastern China. God, she’s a nurse! That’s all I can say.

     Keep in mind I am a huge proponent of Free Speech, but I believe this is going too far!  Some Internet content must be regulated!  While there are some specific, highly sensitive areas where the Chinese government tries to control all information — most important, any political activity that could challenge the authority of the Communist Party — the Western media’s focus on censorship can lead to the misconception that the Chinese government utterly dominates online life. The vast majority of what people do on the Internet in China, including most human-flesh-search activity, is ignored by censors and unfettered by government regulation. There are many aspects of life on and off the Internet that the government is unwilling, unable or maybe just uninterested in trying to control.

     The Netizen may be considered a tattletale, but in my opinion deemed necessary in Eastern as well as Western culture.  Protest is a right, but can sometimes be taken too far.  This form of demonstration is cruel (flesh search engines) and these people should be apprehended and reap the consequences for their actions!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

We Are Little Brother

In general I view hacktivism to be a bad thing. There are occasions where hacktivism can be used for good, but usually it's just a way to attack people on a scale that doesn't come close to what those people did. I'm not too familiar with human-flesh search engines, but for the most part they are not the kind of thing that I would associate with justice. Yes, making people accountable for their actions is nice but all-out assault on them is something that I can't accept.

In our culture we usually hail the vigilante as a hero; just take a look at various superheroes. Even if what that vigilante does is illegal, or the person/entity they're going after hasn't actually done anything illegal people still usually like them because it appeals to our sense of righteousness. This doesn't often equate to justice, however. Calling someone a poopy doo-doo head and then having death threats sent to you isn't exactly an equal response from the threat senders. That example is a bit extreme, but that's usually how these things work out. The response from the Internet is usually blown way out of proportion compared to what actually happened.

China's Human Flesh Search Engines

Creating a viral video that was disturbing and globally offensive is what landed Wang Jiao in hot water in 2006. In a New York Times article entitled, "China's Cyberposse" by Tom Downey, the story of Wang Jiao is told as an example of the power of human-flesh search-engines. The destructive force of Netizens (Internet citizens) is immense when their right (or wrong) buttons are pushed. The viral video that made Wang Jiao a target featured her stomping a kitten to death with the sharp heel of her high-heeled shoes. Within six days, an army of Netizens had descended on finding the location of Wang and revealing an amazing amount of personal data. As a result, Wang the cameraman that filmed the video lost their jobs and were forced out of their town.

The power that human-flesh search-engines can have is of concern when used under false pretenses. Some sort of mild regulation would be ideal, but is nearly impossible without severely impacting freedom of speech on the internet. International regulation would be very expensive and it would be difficult to convince other countries to agree on a set of laws. The internet is going to continue playing a vital role in political protests, with methods of retaliation and crowd-sourcing evolving. With an increasing number of Netizens, the speed at which information is revealed and action is taken will be even more alarming. With China already proving a single women (out of over a billion citizens) could be tracked down in less then a week, the power of human-flesh search-engines is already startling.

Hacktivism is a hell of a drug

Well this is a way for some for empowerment. It is their way to be a superhero. Not to say the video of the cat ( Which I do not want to watch I am a dog guy but still) for the woman to get death threats is a bit extreme. If you heard from your friend that was the link and you proceeded to watch it, you took it in yourself to watch it and congrats it provoked a reaction like you expected it to. has a great piece on a group of cyber hackers and what their mission is

The whole human flesh hunting to me is extreme. People need to deal with their own lives. The act to help others that have no concern is just rather extreme to want to hunt and kill. That's what police and others are for that purpose.

Then you see people who try to change governments and make things better for the small guy. I have to admit I root for that. Why? Perhaps it can bring social awareness of activities we are not aware of that are doing this planet some harm. Maybe bringing things to light to make us more self aware is not a bad thing. We need to know that people care.

No one wants to see harm to animals or the woman who committed suicide and how her husband drove her to it but if you want to hunt someone down for that instead of government and companies trying to rip you off..well my friends that's where I differ. I rather see my future a tad bit better and my son able to see the world for what it is.

Vigilante Police

Cat Lady, as she has been affectionately nicknamed, was caught in a despicable act. I am not going to put myself in the place of an animal activist, but torturing animals like that is downright wrong. The problem was, and has been for centuries, that things done in the dark (Metaphorically) are not often found and prosecuted. Just as copyright holders can claim thousands of dollars for infringing on a track worth $0.99, is it OK to retaliate harshly on the one person that is caught in other acts? The article “China’s Cyberposse” had an interesting way of putting the phenomenon, saying it is: “a form of online vigilante justice in which internet users hunt down and punish people who have attracted their wrath.”

The first part of this statement, talking about vigilante justice, really parallels the justice system in place in developed countries more than we are willing to admit. Both Share:

· Fervor in hunting wrong-doers (China’s Cyberposse)

· Overly-large punishments (The Ballad of Cat Bin Lady)

· Human influence in the decision (China’s Cyberposse)

According to our own justice system, at least monetarily, criminals can be handed a much stiffer sentence than equivalent to their crime. Just because we do it, it doesn’t make it right.

The second part of that statement, though, is not sanctioned in developed justice systems. Acting based on wrath is generally a very bad idea that we try to weed out. It usually ends with an unjust punishment.

Is it wrong to prosecute people that do such things? Not necessarily. I do not believe the $150 fine given the Cat Bin Lady would have been sufficient, but it was still taken too far. In the last few years as a Christian, I have learned that the intentions of an action are never given enough thought. The justice system is not open to such bias, but the online community is. I really wish all ‘Cyberposse’ members would think of this more often when deciding on retaliation that deeply affects someone’s life.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Ethics of Hacktivism

"To Hack or Not to Hack, that is the question"

This week's readings described the practice of "Hacktivsm."  Much like the discussion on Trolling from a few weeks ago, I've found that Hacktivism is a broad term that can be generalized to many different kinds of ambiguous activities, each with varying degrees of severity or intent to "harm" the target.  From Tom Downey, in his New York Times article China's Cyberposse: Human-Flesh Search Engines in China, comes probably the most clear semblance of a definition for Hacktivism: an activity "performed online but intended to cause real world consequences."  But it would seem that, to truly add the "activism" to Hacktivism, whatever the activity is, it must incite others to follow, take part in, or at least pay attention to the message that you, the Hacktivist, is trying to generate.   Again, like Trolls, Hacktivists, or at least the ones that seem to get mentioned, are the ones who either legally or illegally, incite rebellious and even hateful behaviors and actions from fellow "Netizen Hacktivists."

I looked specifically at the case of retaliation against a Chinese online user named Diebao that Downey illustrated in his Cyberposse article.  Diebao, a student living in Sichuan Province was chastised on a popular forum website for a particular comment she made about the government exploiting a great tragedy to "promote nationalist sentiments" (she is referencing the 2008 earthquake that struck the country.)  Many people disagreed with her and initiated a "human flesh search" of her to "teach her a lesson" for what she said.  Hacktivists searched through public records to dig up any information they could find written from Diebao online and what they did find only spurred more anger toward her.  Hacktivists found blog posts written by Diebao referring to her feeling good and excited when the earthquake happened and that she thought that more people should've died.  They then took a trollish turn by posting negative, even hateful remarks against Diebao.  Her University even expelled her based on the urging of hacktivists who discovered who she was. 

Overall, I think the Hacktivists achieved what they set out to, which was to go after Diebao and make her life a hell for a while, but I don't think that the reason behind it warranted their actions.  Perhaps it is because we Americans are used to the idea of free speech, whether we like it or not sometimes, but I don't think that Diebao's comments would have lead to such an all out viral manhunt in America.  Granted, her comments were completely insensitive and downright disturbing, but she wasn't really "hurting" anyone with her comments.  The information that Hacktivists found on Diebao was all in the public domain-blog post, school records-so I wouldn't say that anything downright illegal occurred at least in the gathering of information.  It is clear that Diebao was harassed, so much so that she was expelled from her University, and that I think should be against the law.  Sometimes, people say stupid things, and regardless of what she said or wrote, she didn't do anything to warrant the punishment she received, whether we like what she said or not.  According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as established by the United Nations:

Article 3.

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.  

Article 5.

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
I would have to say that in Diebao's case, I think that the Hacktivists violated her right to security of person by writing threatening posts and subjected her to cruel punishment by getting her expelled.  All in all, the Hacktivists became what they claimed Diebao was, "not human" by violating her rights.  Establishing laws to help protect people can only go so far in the online world.  It can be nearly impossible to punish harassers if they can easily remain anonymous to authorities.  Unless something is done to the target in the real world, or they do something blatantly illegal, I don't think it will be easy to stop the practice of Hacktivsm from occurring into the future.
cited works:

Cat Bin Lady

Lola, a neighborhood cat was discovered making noises in a garbage can that caught peoples attention, so they went to go and check it out. After the home owners checked the security footage, they seen a lady petting the cat, and then placing the cat into the garbage can. The couple decided to post this video online in an attempt to find out who this woman was.
Once the woman was discovered, she had to be put into police protection because of the threats she started receiving. A Facebook and twitter page was made about her and her actions, and she her address had been posted on the Internet so she need to go into police protection.

I think that this lady's actions were wrong. I am not sure why she would think it would be funny to place a cat into a garbage bin, but that is besides the point. I think that having a Facebook and twitter page about her actions is completely out of line. I understand that these two social media sites is how a good chunk of people get their information, but I think it is absurd to make a social networking page about it.

She put a cat into a garbage bin. Yes there is something wrong with this, but now she is in police protection. I just feel like this was blown way out of proportion and I believe it happened because of the Internet and the media websites. People online like to have fun with stories such as this by making certain pages, but they don't realize the affect it could have one people. Facebook was forced to take down the page based on the Cat Bin lady, but as far as I am concerned, the damage was already done.

I don't think there will ever be solid consequences for actions like this because it is to difficult to single out one individual or party that posts things that are out of line. I think that the reasons things are posted aren't to achieve justice, but to just make it known what is going on out there and to get others fired up to see what kind of response we can get out of people. I don't see how it is beneficial by any means, but then again, that is just my opinion.


What exactly is hacktivism? Hacktivism is a kind of activism and is a way of advancing a cause or staging a protest by hacking into the opponents computer systems or websites. This can take the place of other forms of activism such as writing letters and demonstrations. I actually never even knew there was an exact name for this type of activism until this week's readings. I knew that it existed in the world because of all the advancements in technology and because of the billions of people who use the internet. However, I never knew that there existed an exact name and definition for the process. But, after reading the articles for this week, one article really caught my attention and it actually disturbed me because I am a big animal/pet person.

After reading Tom Downey's article from the New York Times, Chinas Cyberpose, I was shocked that there are people actually in the world who would do something like this, and let alone post it on the Internet so that everyone can see. The video contained a Chinese woman smiling and then dropping a cat to the ground and stomping on it continuously with their heeled shoes. Another new term that I just learned from Tom Downey is , human-flesh search, which means "a form of online vigilante justice in which the Internet users hunt down and punish people who have attracted their wrath." This video appeared on the air in 2006, but there are numerous videos that have attracted people to punish the creators of many videos.

When I first read and learned what hacktivism was, it sounded immoral to me and inappropriate. However, once I read Chinas Cyperpose, my opinion sort of changed. Does this lady who did this vicious act deserved to be hunted down and punished by people she doesn't know? She should of thought of this before she did this evil act and posted it on the Internet for the rest of cyberspace to see. Users on the Internet did everything in their power to find out who this lady was, where she lived, and where she worked. Downey wrote about the cat-killer case that, "After they found this out, they tracked her down and she ended up losing her job, and left town." "The kitten-killer case didn't just provide revenge; it helped turn the human-flesh search engine into a national phenomenon."

Is hactivism an effective means of protest or achieving justice? I guess it just depends on what the reason for it is. In this case involving the kitten-killer, I believe that it is an effective means of protest. Not only did it teach the people who made the video a lesson, but it also showed other viewers that some people will do anything they can in their power to get revenge. If somebody is gonna post something explicit or violent on the Internet for others to see, then they must be responsible for their actions. The Internet is advancing so much that it is getting easier and easier to track somebody down on the Internet even through a simple video post or comment. In a way it seems to violate civil or human rights, but there are a lot of things that violate human rights that still goes on in everyday life.

I can tell you right now that there will continue to be different forms of political protests on the Internet. There are so many protests taking place on the Internet already, but I believe that there will continue to be much more protests over the net. I don't necessarily believe though that consequences will take place until something happens that is VERY VERY controversial and it reaches different news agencies. Hacktivism reminds me of the court case Zeran v. AOL, which is about what someone posts on the Internet and whether the Internet provider is to blame or the actual poster. In this case, the court ruled that the person who posts the material is to blame and not the provider. This is the link
containing the summary of the Zeran v. AOL trial. As soon as I started to read about hacktivism,
this is the first thing that popped into my head. Do any of you guys agree? Do you think it sounds
familiar? Do you think a case regarding hacktivism will happen within the Supreme Court? Let me
know your thoughts!

Vigilante Justice

A human-flesh search... what a great idea. Especially in a situation like the one where the woman committed suicide by jumping from an apartment. She killed herself because her husband cheated on her. Even though it is not illegal to have an affair it is immoral. Since he could not be punished by the police he was disciplined by local citizens. However, this does pose a few problems. The man's parents and potential employers should not be included in the punishment at all. They had nothing to do with his misdeed.

There is one thing that really bothers me about the human-flesh search. What if the person is misidentified? In the case of the woman stomping the kitten to death someone asked for a clearer photo. If her face was not clearly visible in the photo how can they be sure that they located the right person? The nice thing about it is that the attention span of the public isn't that long. In a couple of months or less the people will probably forget about her and move on to the newest offender.

Group social norms are one of the biggest influences of human behavior. So I think that these websites are overall a good idea. They are sort of like peer pressure encouraging people to do the right thing, or at least to not do the wrong thing. Although it is unlikely, it would be nice if they also had a website that featured people doing positive things. When I worked at Target there was an area where you could post a little card of thanks when a coworker went out of their way to help you. At the end of the month they put the cards in a bin and drew one. That person received a small prize. It would be nice if people were rewarded for doing good as often as they were punished for bad behavior.

Here is a link to the video of the woman crushing the kitten. I couldn't watch it, but I thought it might help people understand just how horrible it was.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


This week the article that caught my attention the most was China's Cyberposse by Tom Downey from the New York Times. The people "prosecuted" in this article may have deserved ramifications for their actions, however I do not feel vigilante style is the way to go about it.
Is it an effective way to go about justice? Sure, it just isn't a fair way or the right way. Granted every country has different sets of laws, but every country has laws in place for a reason. The people who committed crimes should be handled by the law. For instance, the lady who stomped the kitten to death, Wang Jaio. She should've been dealt with by the law not a bunch of mob vigilantes. Since when is it ok for a civilian to decide someone's guilt and punishment?
What I found even more disturbing were the cases of people who were targeted when they had not committed a crime but were simply disliked for their actions. The story of Wang Fei is a prime exaple. He was targeted for adultery and the role it played in his wife's suicide. However, adultery, while it isn't an admirable quality, is not a crime. While, I truly feel for his wife and her plight, how does the choice of her action become his reponsibility? Are these vigilante's even bothering to look at all the information? Wang and his wife had been seperated for months and on their way to divorce. How do they know what kind of marriage they had, what her mental stability was and most importantly who made them the official in charge of deciding anything?
I do believe these Netizens and their human-flesh search engines to be a violation of civil and human rights. While, many rally around the idea of those who have done wrong "paying the piper", the idea should be for them to pay the piper with the help of the law. While, I defiantely wouldn't stomp a kitten to death, I certainly can say I have made my fair share of mistakes. It's safe to say we all have. I, personally, would not want my mistakes publicly aired and I definately would not to be on the recieving end of this vigilante justice.
So the question seems to be: How do we stop this? I do believe their should be criminal punishment set forth on individuals who choose to do this. Obviously, each country would have to set their own laws just as with every other law. However, finding these individuals and punishing them shouldn't be too hard...if they wanted to find you they would....