Saturday, July 14, 2012: 11:00 pm (Dennis): What are we talking about when we refer to activist Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks? Digital sit-ins? Juvenile bullying and censorship? Something completely different? The rhetorical framings by both advocates and critics of activist DDoS attacks have ultimately fallen short of successfully defining DDoS as an activist tactic. Metaphoric characterizations have failed to describe the reality of activist DDoS attacks, and new analysis is needed if we are to fully understand the tactic's potential. In an effort to come to this new analytical understanding, this talk examines the history of DDoS attacks in activism in general, culminating with the case study of the Anonymous Operation Payback attacks. The discussion will show how the population participating in DDoS attacks has shifted from a professionalized activist core and their peers (such as those participants in the Electronic Disturbance Theater's actions in the 1990s and 2000s) to the diffuse, less professionalized, and less conventionally politically active population that participated in the Anonymous actions. The role the media has played in past activist DDoS actions will also be explored. Evidence will be presented to show that DDoS attacks have shifted in their tactical nature from electronic direct action to a form of media manipulation.
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