Net Filtering and ECD By Alex Schlotzer 15/09/09 Late last week there was a great story about anonymous

online activists using electronic civil disobedience to express their outrage at the continued effort to censor the Internet by Senator Conroy and the Rudd Labor Government. The form of ECD utilized was the trusty old distributed denial of service (DDoS) action, which was, reportedly, successfully used to stop access to a number of the government's agencies' websites. Of course there have been those that have questioned the legitimacy of using these kinds of tactics. And for the most part they offer sound justifiable reasons for not using such methods of protest, or at least not until all other means have been exhausted. This is always an appealing position to take, committing to taking the already tried and true means of protest; more rallies, more letters to Members of Parliament, more letters to the Editor, more calling talkback radio, more citizen action groups and more meet ups. I'll admit that this is the bread and butter of running long running campaigns, and especially when it is against the government and encumbent political party. But what makes this story really interesting? It's that electronic civil disobedience, in the form of the distributed denial of service (DDoS) action, was chosen to express the outrage of the community, or part thereof anyway. The DDoS caused no real harm. There was no website defacement or redirection and no other indications that the security of the websites targeted had been compromised. Simply put; the only 'harm' caused by the DDoS was lost time in the government ability to spread its propaganda on the Internet. And if reports are correct, though conflicting, the most time these sites were down for was 1 hour. That is 1 hour out of 24 hours, leaving 23 hours for the government's propaganda to be available. There is no indication of the 'cost' of the 'damage' done by the DDoS, or whether a server or computer were harmed during the action. Maybe one of the website's technical staff got a paper cut? We'll never know. But the action did do one thing, and the most important thing in my humble opinion – it brought mainstream media attention on the debate about the government's proposed blanket Internet censorship system. Even if for a couple of days. Sure it gave Conroy more opportunities to nationally espouse his government's brand of propaganda for a broken system of censorship. The government's position is seemingly about a blanket censorship of the Internet, with no real criteria for determining what is banned. but it also gave voice to the greater number of opposing opinions. This is truly the first decent act of ECD in Australian cyber space since 2002/03 when the federal Department of Education's websites were disrupted for 30 minutes. The action also helped illustrate that ECD can be an effective tool which supports existing campaigns. However, the bottom line is: It helped highlight the voices standing up for freedom of speech and freedom of choice in what we access as adults on the Internet (albeit highly ineffective); and ECD was the vehicle.

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