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Podcast    H4'ed 1/14/15

Molly Sauter: The Coming Swarm; DDOS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet

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Broadcast 1/14/2015 at 04:48:22 (13 Listens, 22 Downloads, 2148 Itunes)
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Molly Sauter is the author of The Coming Swarm; DDOS Actions, Hacktivism, and Civil Disobedience on the Internet





@oddletters twitter handle

Let's get some language and definitions clarified, for starters.

What's a DDOS action, and why do you call it an action rather than attack?

Rob: You've written about how, in the past, civili disobedience, like the kind use to secure equal rights in the sixties, was analog-- people on the street. But you've said, and I quote,

"today, civil disobedience often looks very different. Networked technologies mean our opportunities for effective political activism have increased exponentially. Where activists once put their physical bodies on the line to fight for their causes, online activists can engage in digitally-based acts of civl disobedience from their keyboards. There are three major lines along which digitally-based civil disobedience is developing: disruption, information distribution, and infrastructure. Each has its own particular challenges and benefits."

Rob: To be clear, I want to start off talking about the legality of DDOS attacks-- that they are generally considered illegal cybercrime, even terrorism. Let's first get that out of the way.

DDOS usually considered to be a felony.

Rob: You also raise another important issue, again, I quote, "Charges of censorship are usually thrown into the mix as well, because (ironically) of the internet's overwhelming use as an outlet for speech, by individuals, corporations, states, and everyone else. "Why," the critique goes, "can't you come up with a way to protest that doesn't step on somebody else's toes?" But the internet, as it were, is all somebody else's toes." And I know that one issue you explore is the problem of privatization-- in the analog world of real streets and places and on the internet.

internet is almost entirely privately owned. And first amendment rights, only apply on public space". the internet is almost entirely privately owned.

Rob: You say in your book "There is no street on the internet." And that the internet, quote, "has none of the free speech guarantees we have come to expect."

Rob: Can you talk about why you are interested in DDOS actions as digital tools for activists. How can they be used in the light of activism? And can you give examples?

because of their quasi-legal nature and the privatized nature of the internet-- we're left with protest tactics that are illegal--

We can't just leave activism to corporately backed politics.

DDOS action

Rob: If someone engages in civil disobedience, the legal consequences are fairly predictable. If someone participates in a DDOS action, even for the right reasons, are the consequences predictable? Can you talk about how people have been handled by the legal side of the system?

in the past, participating in a DDOS action used to be considered to be similar to participating in a traditional civil disobedience action.

Nowadays-- response is about protecting commerce

PAYPAL 14-- ended up pleading out-- which involved paying over $5000 each to PAYPAL.

Rob: What if I were to learn of a planned manual action and went and clicked a few times on a link that might help bring down a server. What risks does my action expose me or someone to?

In early 90s it was possible to bring down a site with a few friends hitting the refresh button.

Low ion cannon--

Joint and several liability-- damaged party can extract full damages from one member of group that caused damages.

CFAA Computer Fraud and Abuse Act needs to be replaced with a better set of computer laws and regulations.

Rob: That's a big deal. Is anybody talking about this in congress?

Rob: Is this bi-partisan? Who's getting involved.

Larry Lessig is working on this.

Rob: this idea that there's no first amendment freedom on the internet. That's a shocking idea for me.

Molly: The US and supreme court have a way of "noveltying out" first amendment rights. You can't give out flowers at airports or protest at malls because the supreme court has ruled them out as being subject to the same freedoms". which sad, because your town probably doesn't have a town square anymore.

The question, is there free speech on line, should be expanded-- the answer is shocking.

Rob: So is there any legislation to push back and return first amendment rights that have been taken away by the supreme court.

Rob: How long have we had these issues with shopping malls and airports

A lot of this is a discrete move to create zones that are safe for capitalism but not for speech and assembly.

Rob: Yet you are advocating for continued use of DDOS

not exactly. what I am advocating is that the internet has been used as a zone of disruptive political action because the internet only allows corporately backed.. or safe and fuzzy political action. I am in favor of disruptive action.

Rob: Let's talk about disruptive action. Please define what it is.

a sit-in is disruptive. The pro-environmental " is very familiar with disruptive action. These types of actions exist to disrupt the status quo-- to stop something from happening.

Rob: they've characterized environmental action as terrorism now. Will Potter's writing on this...

Rob: what we've explored is how between laws and supreme court decisions we're seeing increasing encroachment of first amendment rights. What are you doing about it?

Rob: you mentioned a number of approaches-- "digitally-based civil disobedience is developing: disruption, information distribution, and infrastructure."

Alternative infrastructure creation-- we could create alternatives to the corporately dominated internet-- like municipal wifi.

Rob: That makes me think of Open Source--

telecoms have made municipal wifi illegal.

Rob: like the way Monsanto has blocked GMO identification laws, compared to other nations, where GMO is totally illegal.

Rob: Any progress on this, creating an alternative infrastructure?

Diaspora-- was an alternative to Facebook. People didn't go there, but it did serve as a proof of concept that you could

ELLO-- an alternative social networking website-- alternative to Facebook.

Rob: there is a successful system in LINUX

It's an entirely separate ecosystem for many

Rob: we started talking about first amendment rights and you transitioned to social networking--

Rob: there was an effort to create a tool that would allow people to add comments to any website"

Rob: If I don't want to hear someone, I can go in my house and I won't hear them. If I am on line, is it reasonable for me to shut them out too?

Rob: Has anyone come up with solutions you like or dislike?

you're often not talking about nice people.

Rob: For some it means getting rid of comment sections altogether.

Rob: You write about: disruption, information distribution, and infrastructure.


Rob: What about infrastructure?

options" what's needed is not trying to make Facebook into a beneficial org, but to create alternative

Rob: You write about creating a biographical identity. What's that about?

Doug McAdam-- talks about what activism and participating in actions does to the activist.

Rob: Then there's the "slacktivist" issue for online activism, such as DDOS attacks, raised by folks like Malcolm Gladwell and Evgeny Morozov. Can you address that?

Rob: what about the use of DDOS actions by nations and corporations. How often does that happen?

it happens a lot. Report from Berkman Center at Harvard-- on use of DDOS by govt as a form of censorship. DDOS is a tactic, it doesn't have ethics built into it.

Rob: Let's talk about the Ethics of DDOS and other disruptive digital activism tools.

Rob; Is there an ethical way to engage in a DDOS action that will reduce in risk of being charged with a crime.

Ways to do DDOS

Can you discuss different kinds of DDOS attacks-- manual, automated, bot systems"

Electronic Disturbance Theater's FloodNet tool, and two versions of Anonymous's Low Orbit Ion Cannon tool

issues with anonymity and pseudonyms

What's this idea you mention in your book about?

"Avatar Nature of Online Brand Presence"

You use some terms I'm not familiar with. Can you explain them?

doxing, "human flesh search," information exfiltration, leaking, defacement,

Rob: What's The future of DDOS and digital activism?

Where are the issues you raise discussed on-line?

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. 

Check out his platform at

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity  

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites,

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization (more...)

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