Fire up your browser as we journey into cyberspace and beyond to meet the ‘hacktivists’ who may well be one click away from a virtual revolution in political activism. In the ‘information war’ of the new millennium, the first shots have already been fired. And the ‘internet warriors’ might be just one click away from a virtual revolution. So begins the story of The Hacktivists, a one-hour documentary which provides a cutting edge snapshot of cultural subversion at the dawn of the digital age. It explores the exponential growth in anti-capitalist activism around the world and the new modes of protest available via computers and the internet. It’s a movement that’s leaderless, global, anarchic and chaotic…the internet come to life! And it’s coming soon to a website and a city near you.
We meet the faces behind the groups behind the electronic protests designed to take capitalism offline. Theirs is a world where sit-ins have become ‘virtual’ and where negative publicity after an ‘online attack’ can send a company’s shareprice plummeting or shatter the image of the target institution. We hear the killer story of the legendary Toy War of 1999, where a US$8 billion online toy corporation was crushed when tens of thousands of internet activists joined in a massive online ‘swarm’ in order to cripple its website and stop it doing business. The Hacktivists gets inside secret organisations like Electronic Disturbance Theatre, Electrohippies and Federation of Random Action. Their members go by avatars such as RE:no or Metac0m… their ‘operations’ have codenames like Mail-o-Matic or Digital Zapatismo. We unmask the key players in the international world of internet activism. Are they ‘cyber terrorists’ intent on breaking the law, as their detractors would have us believe, or are they indeed doing exactly what the politicians want and helping remove troublesome anti-globalisation protesters from the streets and into cyberspace where they can be easily ignored?
The film plays out like a subtle detective story. Across four continents, the four main characters are revealed as planning an online protest for A20, the next fixture in the ongoing ‘carnival against capitalism’…the Summit of the Americas meeting in Quebec City in April 2001. Prisons are being cleared and a second wall built around the old walled city as Canada prepares for it’s biggest peacetime security operation. Canadian Nart Villeneuve is taking a bus from Toronto to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the online protest. We see him retreating under a teargas attack while chatting live with his fellow hacktivists via his laptop and cellphone. French codeslinger Renaud Courvoisier offers up the latest version of his protest ‘drawing tool’ which sends a message to the target website with every stroke of the mouse. Paul Mobbs and his Electrohippies are masterminding the whole operation from an old farmhouse in Wales which is without hot water.
But the ‘cybersleuth’ is on their trail. With the upsurge in web-based activism has come a promising new enterprise…internet intelligence agencies employed by big name companies to keep tabs on the hacktivists. Ben Venzke is a man at the top of his profession. ‘Now you can sit halfway around the world and shut down a company’s ability to operate on the other side of the world by clicking a couple of buttons.’ Proving his point are the Quebec police, who admit to shutting down their website during the Summit in fear of Electrohippy attack. ‘The fact that they were so easily intimidated by the potential of information attack is a real augury of the future,’ says US defence analyst John Arquila. ‘Hacktivism works and it will work even better as time goes by.’