Civil disobedience online

Publication Date31 May 2004
Date31 May 2004
AuthorMathias Klang
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
Civil Disobedience Online
In its simplest form civil disobedience
involves defying the law for a good cause. It
is therefore essentially a conflict between
the law and the individual’s morality. The
purpose of this article is to look at the use of
civil disobedience in online environments to
understand what civil disobedience is and if
it can be implemented as a political force in
the online domain. It is not the purpose of
this article to attempt to explain the sub-
stantive legislation regulating each of the
illegal activities. However it is important to
describe the acts which we intend to discuss
from the point of view of the legislator. The
purpose of this is to give a brief introduc-
tion to the activity and its conflict with the
legal regime. While there is a growing con-
sensus in online criminal law this article
maintains a mainly European Union and
United Kingdom focus.
Unsolicited email
The European discussion on this issue has
been confused with different countries
attempting to implement different meth-
ods to resolve the problem of unsolicited
mail or, as it is popularly known, spam.
AOL (2003) summarised spam for 2003 as
unsolicited email containing mainly
“Dubious education offers, pharmaceuti-
cals, body enhancing hormones, and shady
finance-related offers” the growth of spam
has led to European legislative initiatives. A
large part of any political activity is the abil-
ity to spread the political message. A natu-
ral first stage has been the creation of a web
site with information; email has been used
to create interest in the political message
and to notify people of current events and
actions. This use of email has however
recently been made illegal within the
European Union through the Directive
Info, Comm & Ethics in Society (2004) 2: 75–83
©2004 Troubador Publishing Ltd.
Denial of
Email Bombing
Mathias Klang
University of Göteborg, Göteborg, Sweden
The Internet is used for every conceivable form of communication and it is therefore only natural that it should be
used as an infrastructure even for protest and civil disobedience. The technology however brings with it the ability
to carry out new forms of protest, in new environments and also involve changed consequences for those involved.
This article looks at four criminal activities, which are used as active forms of Internet based protest in use today
and analysis these forms in relation to the traditional civil disobedience discourse. The analysis is done by studying
four basic criteria (disobedience, civil, non-violence and justification) found in tradition civil disobedience discourse
and observing their applicability in online environments. The purpose of this article is to better understand the polit-
ical protest activities carried out online and to see whether traditional civil disobedience theory embraces these new
forms of political activism.

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