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Emergence of a Freedom of Information Movement: Anonymous, WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party, and Iceland – Jessica L. Beyer
Key words: Activism, File Sharing, Politics, Hacktivism, New Media, Online Communities – 0:00-1:16 | 2:10-3:20

How do you guys feel about the government's interference within ideas of “Freedom of Information”?

Are copyright acts more about the broader ideas of controlling information, or more-so the ability to protect people's information and original content?

Do you think the youth, anonymous, and people like Kim DotCom are to blame for copyright infringement? How can freedom of information exist alongside copyright? He is knowingly hosting this website whilst people pirate.

What kind of message is the US government sending to the world with the Kim DotCom raid? An over the top, 72-person raid on a single lot of land, occupied by one person who is simply hosting a website.

Are ISP's as equal to blame as Kim DotCom is? They are allowing this file sharing to happen, since they profit off of the traffic.

Should Denial-Of-Service attacks be viewed as protest, or criminal activity? Are they akin to a peaceful protest of not allowing entry to a workplace/space, or are they more in line with rioting which does have criminal activity, and criminal punishment attached to it?

Is WikiLeaks committing criminal activity? They are releasing private, government documents, and allowing for this free flow of information, something that the US has not had to deal with in such a public space before the last 20 years.

Should the US government be allowed to impose it's ideals of IP law on other countries by threatening trade sanctions, and using their immense power and political pressure to influence? They do this with many other parts of their government when dealing with other countries, so why not with “freedom of information” and IP law as well?

Online rhetoric about the Internet's potential to change society, the need to reform intellectual property laws, and the evils of censorship is becoming increasingly similar across sites.
The push for “freedom of information” is not restricted to online spaces, but it appears to be born from such spaces, with the concept itself shaped by the presence of the Internet and its effect on networked societies.
“freedom of information” advocates pushing for a simultaneous liberalization and homogenization of freedom of information regulations across democracies.
English-speaking online spaces that are youth-dominated (such as file sharing and anonymous communities) radical definitions of freedom of information are gaining strength
Youth public opinion may be shifting towards greater freedom of information, but this is a demographic that lacks political power.
New way of thought brought forth by old hacker ideology that argues against any restriction to the transmission of information.
Online concepts of freedom of information means that accurate public information can be made widely available without fear of censure or punishment.
Implicit argument within for greater government and corporate transparency.
Looks at four ways that this “freedom of information” is being advocated for, this is seen through WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party, Anonymous, and Iceland.
Push for freedom of information not restricted to online spaces, but born from such spaces, concept shaped by the Internet and it's effect on society.
Emerging coalescence of “freedom of information” advocates pushing for simultaneous liberalization and homogenization of freedom of information regulations across democracies.
Rising number of online activists as well as the state of Iceland, which may serve as a norm entrepreneur in the area of media freedom.
U.S. Government's efforts to shut down WikiLeaks.
Various anonymous activist groups and the International Pirate Party.
Hypothesization about the future in light of the US governments actions in the realm of intellectual property, given the lack of political power of the many of the advocates of freedom of information-youth and the very small state of Iceland.
Although online activists have responded in support of WikiLeaks in large numbers, scholars such as Earl and Kimport (2011) have shown that the ease of online protest means more people can participate—and participate they do, as evidenced by the surges of new participants in Anonymous social spaces and by the increase in Pirate Party membership in states such as Sweden and Germany. However, it is too early to tell conclusively if this constitutes a social movement as it is possible that the ease of access may be a double-edged sword, with mobilization efforts dropping off quickly after initial surges.
Social movement literature studied the online world through the lens of traditional political behavior in 2 ways:
Based on Della Porta and Tarrow's transnational protest evidence, they see the Internet as an extension of offline campaigns.
Earl and Kimport examine political behavior taht very closely matches with offline political behavior- such as petitions, letters, campaigns, boycotts, and emails- and focus on the affordances offered by the Internet to activists rather than on a wider range of online political behaviors such as hacktivism.
Differences in online conceptions of freedom of information and domestic legal contexts can be seen in the recent case of the U.S. Government's sustained effort to remove WikiLeaks from the internet and the corresponding backlash by actors advocating for freedom of information. Anonymous, Pirate Parties, and places like Iceland.

PIRATE PARTY – 0:28 - 3:55
International Pirate Party was founded to advocate for the revision of current intellectual property regimes. WikiLeaks ended up on a domain registered to the Swiss Pirate Party and mirrored by the international network of Pirate Parties.
1,000 mirrors appeared in one week.
Pirate Party was formed in 2006, and is not new to political activism. They were created to voice their concern over copyright and patent law on the privacy of individuals.
Pirate Bay FBI raid, caused their membership to double overnight to 3,600 members in 2006. in 2009 when pirate bay was convicted of being guilty, in a week they gained 40,000 members.
Pirate parties in over 30 countries, received 229,117 voted in the European Parliament election of 2009. and in Germany the party received around 845,000 votes.
As of 2012 the German Pirate Party had seen 209 members elected to office at various government levels, with 45 of the seats at state level.
- Similar to how Wiki Leaks is hopping from host to host, to stay alive, The Pirate Bay which has similar threats from the US government they are continuously running, and re hosting.
Anonymous, formed out of an online posting board system, can mean any of a diverse number of groups pursuing different strategies online, because of the broad name “Anonymous”.
Most trafficked Anonymous community is, with as of August 2012 had 134 million unique visitors and 4.5 billion page views.
Creating a group of people who all act together in accordance to what they think is correct.
Created programs such as LOIC (low-orbit ion cannon) which allows for people with no internet experience, and no programming understanding to deal out Denial-of-Service attacks.

In a YouTube video viewed nearly 900,000 times, Anonymous stated (LetterfromAnon, 2010):

When we all have access to information, we are strong. When we are strong, we possess the power to do the impossible—to make a difference, to better our world. This is why the government is moving on WikiLeaks. This is what they fear. They fear our power when we unite. Please, do not forget this. The intention of Anonymous is to protect free flow of information of all types from the control of any individual, corporation, or government entity. We will do this until our last dying breath. We do this not only for ourselves, but for the citizens of the world. We are people campaigning at this very moment for your freedom of information exchange, freedom of expression, and free use of the Internet.

Iceland started to create and design a new set of domestic laws configured to create a media haven for journalists publishers, and threatened media prior to WikiLeaks.
Within the Icelandic Parliament in 2010, they unanimously passed the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI)
It was to turn Iceland into the leading media haven with the strongest protections for journalists and publishers in the world.

The June 2010 Icelandic Parliament vote on the IMMI marked the beginning of a legal revision process involving at least 13 current Icelandic laws. The revisions attempt to incorporate ‘‘best practices’’of strong legal protections for speech from countries around the world while eliminating the weaknesses of each national legal context. For example, the IMMI proposes:

• Aggressive source and whistle-blower protections. The proposal specifically cites the U.S. Federal
False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §3729-3733) as the model for whistle-blower protection.
• Communications protection. The authors propose changing Icelandic law to match Belgian law concerning the protection of interaction between journalists and sources stored on third party sites.
• Process protection. The proposal lists California’s anti-Strategic Litigation Against Public participation (SLAPP) statutes as the model for providing support for publishers in costly legal battles. • History protection. The proposal highlights the issues generated by a 2009 European Court of
Human Rights ruling that stated that each time a viewer looked at an article online it meant that the article had been published again—and instead advocates for French law concerning leaving controversial articles in accessible archives.
• Protection of intermediaries. The proposal cites Swedish law covering intermediaries such as
Internet Service Providers.
• Libel tourism protection. The authors use New York’s Libel Terrorism Protection Act as an example of protections against actors choosing the most hospitable legal climate to persecute publishers.
• Limits prior restraint. To protect against actions preventing publication, the new Icelandic law will incorporate portions of Estonian, Scottish, British, and Norwegian code.

The IMMI also modifies the Iceland Freedom of Information Act and creates an international prize for Freedom of Expression. The hope of the IMMI is that if materials are housed, routed, and published from Iceland, Icelandic law will provide protection, and thereby, increase worldwide media freedom.
The work of integrating the IMMI proposals into Icelandic law is currently in process (Lamant, 2011).

US Government

In January 2011 the US Department of Justice subpoenaed content of WikiLeaks individuals including Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Brigitta Jonsdottir, Jacob Appelbaum, and other activists associated with WikiLeaks. Iceland's foreign ministry demanded a meeting with US ambassador to Iceland in response to the subpoena and the Icelandic interior minister described the action as “very odd and grave”.

January 27 2011 in response to the arrest of 5 young men involved in the pro-WikiLeaks Ddos attacks, an anonymous press release argued that the young men had been engaging in civil disobedience and that the DDoS action was the same as a peaceful protest. Under British law though, they are subject to Computer Misuse Act and could face up to a 10-year prison sentence.

In the area of Intellectual Property, the US has used threats of trade sanctions to encourage a wide range of countries to contradict and/or change their IP law's in response to industry claims of significant financial loss caused by file sharing. Countries such as Sweden, Russia, Spain, Australia, and Costa Rica have succumbed to US government pressure regarding intellectual property laws. Since the international center of the recording and film industries is in the US-- the push has over time become more and more a push for harmonizing other countries domestic law with the US's intellectual property law through the use of international treaties and trade agreements.


Individuals and groups are coalescing into a transnational social movement focused on freedom of information. Online rhetoric about the potential of the internet to change society, the neeed to reform intellectual property laws, andt eh evils of censorship of any kind is becoming increasingly similar across sites. Simultaneously, the ability of groups such as Anonymous to channel the power of like-minded, but not tech savvy, allies in increasing. Young people online are willing to mobilize on behalf of abstract rights claims, and that willingness spreads quickly across the social spaces online.…...

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