Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wrath of the Hacktivists...

Here's a classic example of how old-world ideas of control are clashing with new-world decentralization. I'll try to keep this simple for the not-so-tech-savvy readers out there.

Someone posted the encryption key for cracking HD-DVDs on an internet discussion board, basically informing people of how to circumvent the copy protection on those DVDs. As you can imagine, the HD-DVD people were not too happy, so they sent hundreds of legal threats to websites that posted the key. One of these sites was, which removed all postings about the key and even deleted the accounts of the users who posted them. Then yesterday, Digg users revolted and set out to make every single story on the Digg front page display the encryption key. This prompted Digg founder Kevin Rose to promise "he would no longer take material down, even though it could very well cost him the site."

Here's what's amazing about this story. When the encryption key was first posted on the Doom9 discussion board, an extremely small number of people knew of its existence. Now, as a result of the aggressive attempt to suppress that information, the blogosphere can't stop writing about this story. Google now lists over 58,000 web pages that contain the encryption key.

The lesson to be learned here is that aggressive tactics to control information on the internet - particularly legal threats and the censorship of websites - has the exact opposite effect than what is intended. To draw an analogy, has the RIAA's lawsuits against teenagers for copyright infringement helped to eliminate music piracy? Of course not - it's only enraged and emboldened their own consumers to practice electronic civil disobedience. It's not news to anyone that cyberspace is notoriously allergic to systems of control, however agents of information protectionism need to realize that overly aggressive tactics lead to raising the likelihood of drawing the hacktivists' ire... and then all bets are off.


At 10:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very good outline of the issues, one that even a young child could grasp. If only record/movie/media executives were as smart.


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