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Are DDOS Attacks “Free Speech”?

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Friday October 5, 2012 )

I shudder any time I see the term “freedom of speech” these days as the person calling for it usually doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with it.

But a recent article concerning the lawyer representing Anonymous and several other hackers gave me pause for thought.

Concerning DDOS attacks, Jay Leiderman said:

“they are the equivalent of occupying the Woolworth’s lunch counter during the civil rights movement,”

He wasn’t talking about *all* DDOS attacks – e.g. not the ones carried out for purely mischievous reasons or for blackmail, but those carried out as protests. Regardless, they are still illegal.

The Woolworths lunch counter incident occurred in 1960, when four African American college students asked for service at a lunch counter at Woolworths in Greensboro, North Carolina. They were refused service based on their race, but would not leave. It was a peaceful protest concerning civil rights and an important one.

When Anonymous targeted Paypal’s blog after PayPal refused to process and release donations for Wikileaks, in order to raise awareness of the issue, the DDoS assault polarized opinions.

I must say I wasn’t particularly thrilled by the concept of a ragtag band of hackers roaming the web doing damage – and perhaps some of it collateral. This actually happened when Anonymous took out another target – and all the other sites hosted on the same server that had no connection with the target.

But I get Mr. Leiderman’s point. This is the new activism, or more accurately, hacktivism. It works – and it would seem to fall under the same laws protecting free speech and the right to protest… but brrrr.

Whether they are “legalized” or not, DDOS attacks as protest are not going to stop. We just have to hope that those who believe they have noble causes and wield these powerful tools that can do so much damage think carefully before hitting the button. Collateral damage will not help win friends or influence people.

Anyway, the article concerning Jay Leiderman is an interesting one and well worth a read.

Footnote: After the Anonymous PayPal attack, the company released donations earmarked for Wikileaks, but didn’t reinstate the account. Wikileaks’ donations are now processed by a bank in France.


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