Hacking; a world of people who are hacked off by societal actions of some person or group or another. Traditionally hackers have been held up by the left as paragons of virtue for exposing government/establishment vices to the "ignorant masses" to protect them from making "ill informed decisions" or expressing "incorrect sentiments". Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange are examples of high-profile hackers who have risked their lives and "given up" their freedom to expose hypocritical actions that have been carried out by the US, UK and other world Governments to spy on ordinary citizens for no other reason other than to try and collect data that is on the whole not useful in helping those governments to fight corruption or terrorism. Chelsea Manning is actually being sued by the US Govt because she attempted to commit suicide whilst being held in an all-male prison despite being transgender. The message from her legal team showed that she wished she'd been able to keep her "medical information private, so she could focus on her recovery" but US Govt's actions prevented her from doing that. US Govt officials didn't bother helping to encourage Ms Manning to dispel those suicidal thoughts and embrace her new identity by facilitating her move to a female prison but it is great to see that Ms Manning is now attempting to do by writing articles for Medium from behind bars, despite not having direct Internet Access. Her article recounting her fears being a transwoman out of prison was gut retching to read, but it shows that hackers can be emotional, thoughtful and caring, qualities that weren't readily ascribed to hackers despite their "god like status".
Yet recent cases involving anonymous troll hackers of private celebrity accounts and government databases has exposed an uncomfortable truth for PC defenders on the left: some hackers only hack because they want to cause harm to individuals and not to make the Establishment more accountable, diverse and accepting of differences. Where do and where should hackers draw the line morally?
Exposing Individuals Willy-nilly:
Ryan Grenoble, a Huffington Post reporter and technical specialist has recently stated: "Radical transparency is no excuse for outing people, naming teenage rape victims and disclosing health records". The Associated Press (AP) investigation itself has uncovered evidence that showed WikiLeaks failed to filter out documents including:
- a document claiming a "Saudi man was gay" (despite the fact that I'm sure plenty of the hackers know homosexuality carries the death sentence if discovered and that guy had not consented to that information being made publically available.) WikiLeaks denies they released that information and came from the US Govt figs 2015 and being "re-run" for the election.
- 22 other people affected were in Saudi Arabia; The Guardian (Wed 24th August 2016) contacted these people to let them know their information had been released; they highlight the story of "a partially disabled woman who had gone into debt to support a sick relative" and had kept it secret from her family. She said "What is the use in publishing my story?"
- marital records stating whether a bride was virgin or not (since when did the public need to pass judgement on a person's state of purity in the Western World?)
- health documents indicating whether a person's partner had HIV (in which case the persons affected would tell others they slept with but not in the public interest for everyone else to know HIV status).
- 2 cases of documents naming teenage rape victims (when those rape victims are entitled to anonymity from persecution under UK law let alone US law).
The Hacking of Ms Jones:
Some hackers believe that celebrities are "undeserving" of a private life because they have chosen to get paid for serving the public interest for entertainment, whether it be playing a black feminist Ghostbuster in a "controversial" all female Ghostbusters remake, or being a porn star making teacher-student seduction movies for dissemination on XTube et al. It seems that celebrities are no longer entitled to express their own opinions, especially if they are on issues they care deeply about. Mention an opposition to "free speech without consequence" and ironically get your fingers burned in the process. Now I don't condone some of the tweets that have been purportedly sent from Ms Leslie Jones's Twitter account to bait white people into expressing racist views. I've seen them on Twitter and some referring to the crappiness of a DJ because he's white or that "white women look the same" probably wasn't in the best possible taste. I'm not sure that she'd properly drawn the line between being comic/satirical and being racist/offensive but let's be honest that line is difficult to draw even though her account is personal which she has headed with information about her profession. I'd naturally assume when I see "stand up comic" on a Twitter handle I'd know some tweets may be distasteful to me but may seem comical to others.
What is clear to see is that Ms Jones has been the victim of a sustained, brutal cyberbullying campaign on social media platforms that have focussed specifically on her race which has culminated in a hacking of her iCloud. Strange that the hackers have gone for her nuke pics and chosen to distribute them on social media and their defenders have stated that this was "in the public interest". I'd never take nude pics of myself to show another person as I realise the risk of being hacked and it doesn't particularly interest me to take them but I have no interest in viewing nudes to avenge the supposed acts that Ms Jones "faked" to get conservative, Alt-Right blogger and "free speech" activist Milo banned off Twitter permanently. Did people really need to know that she takes them in the first place? Viewed within this narrow prism, hacking is seen as nothing more than a revenge attack by those determined to make Ms Jones feel "sorry" for her previous actions. Yet I've still not seen any comments that would indicate she is prepared to apologise for causing "possible offense". So it looks like the slut-shaming hack has failed big time. So hackers who are using their skills and experience to exact revenge on celebrities for their viewpoints aren't really doing the hacking to empower the public, they're doing it as an act of revenge. Very petty!
Hacking Politicos: Exposing the Democrat National Convention (DNC):
So away from the hacking of individual accounts (which on the whole seems fairly dubious) when is it acceptable to gain access to political party information to "empower the public" to make the right decision in an election cycle? WikiLeaks's main raison d'etre after all is to "bring censored or restricted material involving war, spying and corruption into the limelight". So revelations about Bernie and Hillary's primary campaigns, correspondence with CNN and other mainstream media networks could vaguely be classified as being in the public interest. Bernie voters may have had a right to know about the direction the party was going in to support Hillary's candidacy as the primary season progressed, especially as there is evidence to suggest DNC staffers were keen to question Sanders on his faith/beliefs (May 2016) with an implicit nod to that potentially damaging his candidacy hopes.
The resignation/sacking of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz was justified in that she failed to prevent the systems from being hacked in the first place, let alone her official email circulating stating "Bernie Sanders will never be President", a bias which should not have made clear until the end of the primary cycle. But I do wonder what WikiLeaks hoped to achieve by leaking certain emails/documentations in the first place. I don't think their aim of "fighting corruption" was particularly achieved with the July leak of documentation that openly had "two dozen social security and credit card numbers" displayed on that documentation. Since when was it in the public interest to know those numbers (unless you want to use them for fraudulent purposes?) The Guardian has reported that 2 of those people have been "targets of identity thieves following the leak" and that one "was a retired diplomat who said he also had to change his number after being bombarded with threatening messages". Similarly the recent leaked email stating Hillary Clinton searched for a dementia drug to try and combat her "decision fatigue" is ill-judged considering the stigma attached to developmental disorders such as dementia at this current time. This leak reeks a bit of political bias, where hackers and WikiLeaks attempt to discredit a candidate through the referencing of one incident that many older people who fear they may have dementia or are suffering fatigue. The fact that the message refers to "decision fatigue" in the first place is suspect; I doubt many would have explicitly stated their fatigue was due to decision making!
We will never know for definite who carried out the hacking of the DNC servers although several sources believe it was a self-styled Romanian hacker called "Guccifer 2:0" who is working for the Russian authorities to discredit Hillary (although the Romanian language he was using during the interview seemed "clunky" and seemed to point to evidence of him using an online translator). Regardless of authenticity it does seem clear that Assange is prepared to use a range of hackers without checking fully the authenticity of documentation or motives of the hackers themselves. So again, there is a feeling that the hacking activities of some politicos may be an act of revenge based on socio-cultural prejudices against a woman who has no favourable opinions of Putin or Russian regressive policies rather than truly being in the public interest.
We need to stop seeing all hackers as automatically "heroes of the Left". Hackers have their own agendas, inspired by their socio-cultural and political views and so will ultimately only target victims that oppose their views in a strong way. That's their cognitive dissonance in action. I guess some people will go against their mainstream views in the vain hope of gaining a "rad" reputation that none will actually see in the flesh. WikiLeaks protects hackers from prosecution and indignation by offering them the same level of anonymity that they wise to deny to teenage rape victims or closeted LGBTQIA people in Muslim countries. That's why I'm not surprised that some WikiLeaks hackers will be extreme left-wing as well as Alt-Right supporters. Free speech, freedom of information they want at any cost to decency and compassion. It's the sort of attitude we desperately need to condemn and reform. Hacking is not always a correct act of Free Speech, and when people's privacy is restricted or even destroyed by trolls hell bent on fetishistic revenge, there has to be consequences to those acts. If hackers can be traced via their internet imprints, then they have to be exposed and prosecuted under the Data Protection Act/ Equality Act in the UK to deter those trolls from trying to emulate their success to gain a sense of credibility they may not get in other spheres of their lives. Hackers have a right to demonstrate their skills but why not encourage them to put their skills to good use by establishing hack-security firms such as Gregory Evans's Hacker For Hire or showcase creativity such as "Jules's" IkeaHackers.net, an online social community which "Jules" created to share her and others’ modified uses of IKEA products (e.g. a dish drain repurposed as a tie rack and a dresser-turned-bathroom-vanity). Hackers can be empowering figures, provided they refrain from persecuting and baiting individuals/celebrities online who may share different viewpoints from themselves.