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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Hacktivism and Patriarchy

Yesteday afternoon a video surfaced on social media that clearly showed Ray Rice, a Baltimore Ravens running back, brutally attacking his fiancée. The reaction was swift, both on the internet where he was criticised openly and in the media where he was shamed. In a matter of hours his team had confirmed that he was indefinitely suspended from the NFL and cut by his team.

While violence and abuse are not uncommon among professional athletes, a culture of denial and silence is. So naturally I found yesterday's events surprising for how quickly and positively it was handled.

What's interesting to me is that in the age #womenagainstfeminism and other backlashes against progressive feminist ideology there are few issues as unifying as violence against women. I don't mean to say that everyone is on the same page, but by comparison it's an issue where most people can appreciate that there is a problem and that we need to find a solution. Issues like access to abortions or contraceptives, the pay gap, and rape are all issues that are highly political and polarised, with many claiming that these are not actual problems.

By virtue of this video coming out, it has highlighted the power of hacktivism, particularly around an issue that will provoke almost ubiquitous outrage. Social media has very much accelerated the use of hacktivism (hacking activism). As more people have both the tools to record and the skills to post and find information, hacktivism will continue to be a force that fights back against hegemony. Hacktivism sometimes gets a bad rap because it is seemingly poorly understood. Some people are aware of Anonymous but are more inclined to think of hacktivism in the context of the NSA spying on American citizens, identity theft, or blackmail. There are certainly enough examples of this circulating right now.

I think it's very important to make the distinction that hacktivism is not about exposing people's personal data, it's about exposing injustice. Often, this includes sharing information that was obtained in a public space, such as an elevator. Hopefully, as more people are capable of exposing criminal acts our legal system will evolve to keep pace.

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