Hacktivism: Hackers turned Heroes

As soon as I think about the word “hacker,” I instantly think about people with no lives who are trying to take advantage of others. I assume that all they want is to steal other people’s information or work and make it impossible to get it back.

I have seen people get hacked on social media a lot. You know those who constantly tag you and 50 other people on the same picture to get you to buy some random product; or the ones who tweet you a sketchy link telling you that “they’ve seen a video about you.” I remember following Snooki a couple of weeks ago when her page had gotten hacked on Instagram, and all of her followers tried to help her. It was pretty comical and yet scary at the same time.

About two weeks ago, I had gotten my email account hacked into and I had been completely devastated. It was the email account that I use for just about everything. All of my shopping emails, sports emails, and the miscellaneous junk that I didn’t want to read but had to. Needless to say, I didn’t have the best perception when it came to hackers. I actually thought that hackers were all scumbags to be honest.

However, part of my opinion changed when I read Lievrouw introduce the idea of “hacktivism,” and how hacking can be viewed in a different perspective. Then I really started thinking about how many good things have come from hackers. Certainly, there is information out in the world that people in power try to hide from the public that should not be hidden. There is also information out there that could better the lives of many who don’t have access to it.

I read an article by the NY Post that had talked about Aaron Swartz who was a devoted hacktivist who wanted to free up information. He had been sentenced for three months in prison after he “illegally downloaded massive amounts of data from M.I.T.” Swartz didn’t have any intention of committing a crime but rather he wanted to push for university research to be public.

I also distinctly remember watching a group of hackers oversees who had helped bring information to the United States that was of great value. I don’t recall the specifics but they had actually worked with the New York Times to bring important information to the public. It was all in the documentary called, Page One, which can be found on Netflix.

I guess there is room for hackers to exist without making other people’s lives hell. As long as it’s for the greater good of the population then maybe they aren’t as bad as I had originally thought. It is important to be able to differentiate the  pros and the cons in order to understand how the word hacker came to be.

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