However, Hacktivism and the Hackers’ dialogue with authority has changed dramatically since the time of the Cult of the Dead Cow and when Steve Wozniak, and Julian Assange, hacked telephone services to highlight imperfections in security, and take advantage of free connections. The conversation between Hackers and authority has changed dramatically, in just the last ten years alone. Julian Assange and his WikiLeaks Party having run for the first time in federal elections in Australia in 2013 demonstrates this progression; not only has the era of secrecy been lifted from some segments of the hacking community, but some hackers, like Assange and co-producer on WikiLeaks’ Collatoral Murder video BirgittaJonsdottir, are actively running against the grain and becoming public figures in order to spearhead the search for truth and champion the ‘share alike’ core of the Hacker Ethic. In another sense, Anonymous has become a public figure, engaging in serious tussles with several sources of authority, whether political (hacking North Korean and South Korean websites and making Denial-of-Service Attacks), economic (taking down or defacing PayPal site amongst others) or religious (Project Chanology), to challenge the core structures of society in a very public and forceful way. In the case of PayPal, the WikiLeaks website highlights the alleged hypocrisy with which PayPal is conducting business currently; not only, maintains WikiLeaks, will they allow Holocaust denial websites to receive donations, but they also allow the KKK and pornography sites to receive money using their service as well… but not WikiLeaks.
In the same way, authority figures and private enterprise are beginning to be seriously questioned by the hacker collective, and subsequently wide swathes of the Internet community, for the agendas which are displayed and perpetuated when controversies and moral questions are stimulated via the actions of identities like WikiLeaks and Anonymous. In the case of PayPal and Amazon shutting down their service to WikiLeaks following the release of certain classified U.S. government documents, this denial of service provokes serious problems with society’s dependance on private companies, who are at liberty to act upon hidden agendas at their will. Social media may be seen as a liberator and a tool for activists, but the downside to platforms like Facebook and Twitter is that we forget that they do not belong to the public and therefore their owners can inhibit the activity of anyone they do not agree with, without having to provide a well evidenced reason. This kind of behaviour may become more and more prevalent, particularly on Facebook, as legislation to prevent advocacy for boycotting is set forward by the current Coalition government, and the platforms used to spread ideas about such activist actions start to react in a way which may fall in line with the ideology of the government in power in both Australia and the U.S.
The function of Hackers has, therefore, become not only about championing truth, but has also become more strongly centred around democratisation of access online, and revealing the inequalities and agendas which may go unheard and undiscovered otherwise.