Hacking for Democracy


| September 23, 2002

Hacking for Democracy

Subverting censorship in countries like China takes some ingenuity. Oxblood Ruffin, founder of the group Hacktivismo, infiltrates the fortress of those countries' Internet monitoring and firewalls with artful secrecy and supplies restricted information to anyone willing to risk the consequences. Ruffin shares the nuances of this political hacking with Mark Moyes of Shift.com.

Ruffin doesn't consider Hacktivismo to be a social justice group. Rather, its basic mission is to preserve various Internet rights and freedoms-- the Hacktivismo declaration is founded on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 'It's article 19 of both of those documents that talks about what we call information rights -- the ability to access information, regardless of how that information might be transmitted,' Ruffin says.

But part of this process has included devising such stealthy tools as Camera/Shy, a Web-based application that lets users hide content (such as text) within an image, therefore allowing restricted material to slip past filtering software.

Using such applications obviously puts the receiver in danger, and Ruffin says he has struggled with the ethics involved in offering the service. But then, says Ruffin, 'A lot of people get confused by technology and they think that it's very different than the real world. Anybody who's afraid to go to a street demonstration or is somehow on state's radar is not going to be using anything that we produce.'
--Julie Madsen
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Related links
Hactivismo
NetIQ claims detects Hacktivismo tool, by ComputerWire, The Register