After WikiLeaks released hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents in 2010, the ensuing cyber-attacks waged by all sides in the controversy brought the phenomenon of hacktivism into popular focus. Many forms of hacktivism exploit illegal access to networks for financial gain, and cause expensive damage. Other forms are used primarily to advocate for political or social change. Applicable law in most developed countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, generally prohibits hacktivism. However, these countries also protect the right to protest as an essential element of free speech. This Note argues that forms of hacktivism that are primarily expressive, that do not cause serious damage, and that do not exploit illegal access to networks or computers, sufficiently resemble traditional forms of protest to warrant protection from the application of anti-hacking laws under widely accepted principles of free speech.
Noah C. Hampson,
Hacktivism: A New Breed of Protest in a Networked World,
B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev.