Hactivists: The hero or the villain?

We live in a world that is consumed by the Internet. It is embedded into our daily lives so much so that when it fails us we feel as though our world is crumbing. While the Internet may give us the freedom to do what we want, whenever we want, it does not guarantee our privacy, as many of us like to forget. This opens the door to an array of ethical issues surrounding the Internet and our right to access it all.

Online hacking is any technical effort to infiltrate, extract and/or manipulate networked data (Mitchell, 2014). Any news headline including the word “hacker” immediately brings thoughts of malicious activity and disaster, however there are many who argue this movement is not necessarily bad, rather a new form of whistleblowing.

Wikileaks is a prime example of this new age, known as ‘hacktivism’, breaking into computer systems, for politically or socially motivated reasons. The website, created by Julian Assange and his team, publishes secret footage, documents, emails and anything else of value from their thousands of sources who have the ability to remain anonymous. In Raffi Khatchadourian’s New Yorker article, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, he describes Assange’s mission as “a way to expose injustice, not to provide an even-handed record of events” (2010). Not everyone will like what it is posted but Assange feels as though it is information society needs to be aware of.

Many see Assange’s work as a harmful act against society for self gain. In an article for The Sydney Morning Herald, Gerard Henderson wrote that hacktivism is a form of treachery. Traitors like Assange, “are alienated individuals who detest their own society and wish to see it overturned. [They] are openly proud of their alienation and do not seem to regard any nation or any leader as better than any alternative. Moreover, both show evident signs of narcissism” (Henderson, 2013)

On the other hand there are many who see Assange as a new age hero, his super power being the ability to share the truth. 85% of respondents believe Assange should receive government assistance because he is fighting for humanity. An anonymous author made the point that, the information that WikiLeaks has shared with the world is information we have a right to know. It is information that governments don’t want us to know – and for that reason it is even more important that we do” (Green Left Weekly, 2012). Similarly, Bruce Sterling believes that Assange has, the initiative in a world afflicted with comprehensive helplessness” (Sterling, 2013).

I find it hard to define Assange as the hero or the villain as there are still so many aspects of his story I am unaware of. It is also hard to determine how good something has to be for it to outweigh the bad. While the arguments against Assange are supported, the fact remains he has brought the worlds attention to serious issues that we would not be aware of if Wikileaks didn’t exist.


Anonymous 2012, ‘Why we must support Wikileaks and Julian Assange’, Green Left Weekly, 1 June, viewed 16 October 2014, <https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/51189&gt;.

Henderson, Gerard 2013, ‘Assange’s acts of defiance have narcissistic edge’, Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June, viewed 16 October 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/comment/assanges-acts-of-defiance-have-narcissistic-edge-20130617-2oeic.html#ixzz2WVCUW9tA&gt;.

Khatchadourian, Raffi 2010, ‘No Secrets: Julian Assange’s mission for total transparency’, New Yorker, 7 June, viewed 18 October 2014, <http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/06/07/no-secrets&gt;.

Mitchell, Bradley 2014, ‘What Is a Hacker?’, About Technology, viewed 18 October 2014, <http://compnetworking.about.com/od/networksecurityprivacy/f/what-is-hacking.htm&gt;.

Sterling, B 2013, The Ecuadorian library or, the blast shack after three years, Medium, weblog post, 2 August, viewed 18 October 2014, <https://medium.com/@bruces/the-ecuadorian-library-a1ebd2b4a0e5>.


2 thoughts on “Hactivists: The hero or the villain?

  1. Pingback: A Series of Unfortunate Events | PROCRASTINATION PLACE

  2. I think when we look at a hacktivist such as Assange, I have to say hero for society. What he is doing is revealing the truths, revealing the freedom of information that we as society should know. While yes what he has done is against the law. In our eyes he is that of a hero, just like Snowden.

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