I remember hearing a couple of weeks ago about a website named Ashley Madison that apparently allows people to have affairs while married, and that some people were hacking the website and apparently breached it. A group of hackers calling themselves The Impact Team had apparently breached the database of Avid Life Media, the parent company behind Ashley Madison, demanding that they shut down the website along with another website called Established Men, threatening to release the records of all its customers if they refuse to comply. And this morning I found out that the information had been revealed. When I found out that this had happened I thought “this isn’t good at all”. I thought I can only expect more events like this to happen later to other companies, and I feel it means false righteousness has prevailed. Seriously, just look at what The Impact Team sent to Avid Life Media.
When I first found out about this story I tried to find out what on earth could motivate a group like The Impact Team to attack Ashley Madison, and I couldn’t really find anything other than a false sense of righteousness or so it would seem. It’s probably more likely they’re motivated less by conservative “hacktivism” and more by the desire to bully people. Also I have this feeling that they seem to hate homosexuality because they’re willing to hack a site on the grounds that it provides gay dating among other things. Whatever the case, to me they just seem like hooligans, or at worst terrorists. Either way, it shouldn’t take too much to figure out what should be done about them.
There’s another dimension of this event that worries me. After the massive leaking of the data of Ashley Madison’s users, the site released a statement saying:
“This event is not an act of hacktivism, it is an act of criminality. It is an illegal action against the individual members of AshleyMadison.com, as well as any freethinking people who choose to engage in fully lawful online activities. The criminal, or criminals, involved in this act have appointed themselves as the moral judge, juror and executioner, seeing fit to impose a personal notion of virtue on all of society. We will not sit idly by and allow these thieves to force their personal ideology on citizens around the world.”
I’m not certain where Avid Life Media gets the idea of the hackers appointing themselves as moral judges, but it seems like a possible motivation, and even then it seems like the motivation is based on false righteousness, the kind that is dishonest and fueled by base ignorance and malice. You have to ask people like The Impact Group, what could possibly be moral and ethical about leaking the data of millions of law-abiding and innocent people? Even if it’s apparently in the name of marriage, I highly doubt they’re going to ask them why they are cheating to begin with because you never know when somebody starts cheating as a result of an unsatisfying sex life, or unfulfilling marital life in general. This sort of thing feels typical of mob mentality, where all you do is go after an unlikable target without ever demanding context. As I have asked before, is this justice? Shouldn’t it be wrong to blackmail a law-abiding company to get it to shut down its websites on pain of revealing the private data of its customers? Shouldn’t it be wrong to invade the private databases of law-abiding companies and individuals under any circumstances? In a era where the term “hacktivism” is an actual thing, we should be asking ourselves: in what way does breaching personal information and revealing it against the will of an individual constitute a valid form of peaceful protest or political activism? Is it not just hooliganism, criminality, or even terrorism given a heroic face by an increasing culture of Internet-based mob mentality? These are questions that hackers, whether or not they identify as hacktivists, probably don’t wish to answer, but I only hope that, in the future, they may answer to the tip of the sword of true justice.