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Tag Archives: Law

Operation Payback: activism or idiocy?

Recent attacks by governments and private enterprises on the expressive and economic freedoms of Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have provoked the wrath of the Interwebs. Following the release of the first batch of 250,000 diplomatic cables, Amazon, Mastercard, Paypal, Postfinance and others have sought to distance themselves from the group.

In response, Anonymous has unleashed a massive Distributed Denial of Service attack against the online infrastructure of the offending corporations, as well as against the website of the Swedish Prosecution Authority and US Senator Joe Lieberman, he of the Kill-Switch Bill, who called Amazon to put pressure on them over their hosting of Wikileaks in their EC2 cloud.

The description of Anonymous in the mainstream media belies their lack of engagement with online culture. Variously designated as “online activists”, “cyber activists” and other even more ridiculous monikers, Anonymous is simply the group of people who post without usernames on the internet image board 4chan. Their past actions can be characterized by an overriding puerility, punctuated by random displays of kindness and some legitimate activism, such as when they organized Operation Chanology, a series of online and real-world actions against the Church of Scientology.

Operation Payback, the name given to the recent DDoS attack against Wikileaks’s enemies, is not a typical Anonymous operation. Firstly, it has vastly more participants. Anonymous has no leadership structure. Membership has no conditions. Anyone can join in the attack simply by installing a piece of software called LOIC (Low Orbit Ion Cannon). Although Anonymous is characterized as a decentralized collective with no leaders, in recent days a Twitter account has been transmitting orders for sites to attack.

In many countries, DDoS attacks are a legal grey area. Since 2006, the UK has had anti-DDoS laws in place. Similar laws came into force in Sweden in 2007. The USA, unsurprisingly, imposes harsh sanctions on coordinatiors of DDoS attacks. In 2009 a man was jailed in relation to Operation Chanology, the previously mentioned operation to disrupt the Church of Scientology website. Where there is legislation concerning attacks, they are generally outlawed. However, law concerning the internet is not sufficiently advanced in many jurisdictions to take the phenomenon into account.

I would like to suggest that the law should take a different view of DDoS attacks. Operation Payback is showing us that they can be a legitimate form of protest. In the classic DDoS, a horde of infected computers are commandeered unbeknownst to their owners and aimed at a website merely to cause disruption or as a form of extortion. We already have the laws to deal with this. Trespassing on someone else’s computer system is illegal. So is extortion. But in the case of the Operation Payback swarm there is no extortion and participation is voluntary. In effect, it is a form of mass gathering. Hordes of people, disgusted at the actions of the companies, public bodies and individuals targeted, have turned up at their websites to register their disapproval and prevent others from entering. By making themselves visible in this way and disrupting the targets’ business, they are conveying a message to the targets and the public at large.

This action has a real-world corrollary: the picket line. The two phenomena are remarkably similar in purpose and effect. Picketing/DDoS activism both aim to bring public attention and sympathy to an issue, to disrupt the business of the target, and to discourage others from patronizing or otherwise associating with the target. (As a form of industrial action, picketing seeks to discourage people from crossing the picket line and going to work.)

In many places, the actions of picketers are protected by labour laws. So long as the picketing takes place on public property, there is little that can be done to stop it. Likewise, the rights of people to protest and assemble peacefully are generally protected by constitutional provisions. DDoS attacks – like Operation payback – that involve no trespassing, vandalism or extortion, and are undertaken as a peaceful form of protest ought to be afforded the same protection.


Who’s who in the Assange sex case? (part two)

Marianne Ny has worked as a prosecutor with the Swedish Prosecution Authority since 1985. Since 2007 she is Deputy Directory of the Prosecution Development Centre in Gothenburg. The Gothenburg centre is one of three centres in Sweden tasked with study and innovation in different legal areas. She specializes in cases of child sex abuse and violence against women.

Erika Leijnefors is a Swedish prosecutor assisting Marianne Ny. She has had contact with Assange’s Swedish counsel, Björn Hurtig, who was trying to arrange a meeting between Assange and the police. According to Hurtig, this meeting did not take place Ny would not commit to it.

Maria Häljebo Kjellstrand was the prosecutor on duty when the Swedish Prosecution authority received a call from the police about accusations made to them by Anna Ardin and Sophia Wilen, the two women at the centre of the case. Kjellstrand’s husband, Per Kjellstrand, works in the office of the Swedish Minister for Justice Beatrice Ask. Ms Kjellstrand immediately issued an arrest warrant based on the information she received. She later received a phone call from the Swedish tabloid Expressen who had somehow got wind of the situation. It is not known at present how Expressen found out about the initial arrest warrant, but Swedish civil rights group Rättssäkerhetsorganisationen has filed a suit against Kjellstrand based on Swedish laws that confer a right to secrecy on the subject of an arrest warrant.

Eva Finne is a Chief Prosecutor with the Swedish Prosecution Authority. In late August, she reviewed and retracted the arrest warrant for Assange on the grounds that there was no evidence to back up the rape allegations. In a statement issued at the time, she said that she still intended to investigate the lesser charge of molestations. On the first of September, the case was reopened by Marianne Ny, Finne’s superior.

Anna Ardin is a a feminist and political activist. In her thirties, she is one of the women alleging sexual misconduct against Julian Assange. She previously worked as a gender equity officer at Uppsala University before taking a job as press officer with the Brotherhood, a Christian group within the Social Democratic Party. There has been speculation about her past involvement in a CIA-funded anti-Castro group.

Sophia Wilen is a photographer and an employee of the Enkoping town council. She is also associated with the “Brotherhood”, a group affiliated with the Swedish Social Democratic party, having volunteered to help out at an event at which Assange was speaking. She met Assange after this event and the events that ensued form the basis for the allegations against him.

James D. Catlin is a Melbourne barrister who represented Julian Assange in October. He has been a vocal critic of the charges against him, the Swedish laws on rape, and the irregularities in the prosecution of the case.—Broderskapsrorelsen/Var-politik-/,01.shtml,01.shtml