Hacktivism, a term combining the words "hack" and "activism," is used to explain demonstrations that employ computers and the Internet to promote social or political goals. Individuals engaging in hacktivism, known as hacktivists, generally believe that information should be available to everyone without restriction. The hacktivism phenomenon predictably began in lock step with the development and proliferation of the Internet. Since its humble beginnings, hacktivism has become an increasingly common and effective means of communicating social justice messages.
Despite computers and other technology being used with increasing frequency, forms of free speech and expression are limited and defined according to old-fashioned ideologies. In addition, the availability of. and access to, traditional forums is declining. Current legislation prevents hacktivists from freely expressing their constructive messages in a public forum. Though creating an exemption or formulating a statutory amendment would be difficult, the rationale behind the First Amendment and other public policies support a calculated change to statutes like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act ("CFAA").
This Comment attempts to propose a solution that would allow for certain hacktivist activities and provide solutions to the tension between free speech and Internet security. First, an amendment to the CFAA could require a hacktivist to notify the target after the fact and pay the minimal costs of network repair. Second, the CFAA could include an affirmative defense requiring a defendant to show that the actions taken were political or socially motivated under an objective reasonable person standard and that the damage or loss was minimal. A final option could be to implement an additional scienter requirement requiring that a defendant have a specific intent to cause irreparable harm or injury beyond a mere inconvenience.
Andrew T. Illig,
Computer Age Protesting: Why Hacktivism is a Viable Option for Modern Social Activists,
Dick. L. Rev.
Available at: https://ideas.dickinsonlaw.psu.edu/dlra/vol119/iss4/8