Hack Attack: Hacktivist Hackers Hack A Hack
In the wake of Aaron Swartz, it appears to be time for a national conversation about permissible web behavior, if only because some people seem oblivious of subtle distinctions.
It is constitutionally protected free speech to spread one’s own thoughts—it is not necessarily constitutionally free speech to spread someone else’s intellectual property without their permission.
Further, many forms of what is known as “hacktivism” are not free speech.
Many are, in fact, exactly the opposite. Rather, they are politically motivated acts, the purposes of which are to limit the free speech rights of others.
These acts include defacing web pages, “Web Sit-ins” (in which hackers attempt to send so much traffic to a site that the overwhelmed site becomes inaccessible to other users), “E-mail Bombings” (in which hacktivists send scores of e-mails with large file attachments to their target's e-mail address), and other form of what Abbie Hoffman used to call “Monkey Warfare,” (now further evolved up the wireless evolutionary scale).
It is not free speech to close down someone else’s forum for their own free speech by making it impossible to access their sites, or by hijacking those sites.
You don’t like what someone says on the web?
Post your objections in their comments thread, or post them in your own webspace.
My webspace is my home. Your squatting upon it without my permission is trespassing, and just as if one trespasses in another’s home, society does (or should) provide appropriate remedies.
So last week, when a “hacktivist” took over Vito Lopez’s Twitter feed, the act was not analogous to the act of setting up a parody twitter feed like the hilarious “Fake Sheldon Silver” or the wickedly on-point “Fake Marty Golden” (talk about a redundant name).
Parody twitter feeds are constitutionally protected free speech, even if jerks like Golden staffer John Quaglione are too stupid to understand this:
Fake Marty Golden@fakemartygolden: “Again, we don’t really pay attention to it,” Quaglione said of fake Marty account. Ya, save for the 14 tweets u flagged as inappropriate.
Hijacking someone else’s webspace is not even analogous to the spectacularly unfunny, but still constitutionally protected “Vito Gropez,” whose proprietor should be made to post 100 times the words: “I must not be vulgar without being funny.”
Anyway, having gotten his mostly dormant Twitter account back from the hackers, Vito Lopez has been surprisingly magnanimous in his lack of candor:
Vito Lopez@VitoJLopez: It appears that the hacker didn't had any political motive, was just doing it for the heck of it.
Having had an instinct that the hacked contents would eventually be erased, I copied them and must now say I do not agreed with Mr. Lopez’s assessment
Here, from last to first, are all the posts I managed to copy from the Vito Lopez Twitter feed during the time it had been taken over by “hacktivists” and renamed “”BOSS VITO.” See if you can spot a pattern:
Boss Vito @VitoJLopez: Guys, leave me alone "I don’t use the Internet" http://bit.ly/W54FjA
Boss Vito @VitoJLopez: Please support my dear friend Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes for Reelection. I just gotta pay him back for always covering my corruption.
Boss Vito @VitoJLopez: It was a pleasure harassing my staff members, thanks again Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes for always covering my corruption.
Boss Vito @VitoJLopez: Thank you Honorable Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes for always refusing to investigate my corruption.
Boss Vito @VitoJLopez: Poor little @LincolnRestler thought he'll take me down, here I am.
Boss Vito @VitoJLopez: I'm Assemblyman Vito Gropez, I like to sexual harass my staff members, and to boss on the entire Brooklyn democratic party.
Abe George @abegeorge2013: @Brooklynda refused to investigate Vito Lopez. Brooklyn needs a DA willing to go after political corruption. http://fb.me/2jM8aQRtu Retweeted by Boss Vito
Orthodox Pundit got into a little Facebook/Twitter snit with Lincoln Restler over whether Restler and his friends had anything to do with the hacking, but it’s clear that Restler was, at best, an afterthought in this little Purim Schpiel.
What is crystal clear is that this is the work of a person who has it in for Brooklyn DA Charles “Joe” Hynes, and that that person has decided to manifest their disdain for Hynes by supporting the weaker of Hynes’ two most likely opponents, Abe George.
Further, it is clear that the “hacktivist” in question has decided to advance Mr. George’s candidacy for the position of Brooklyn’s top law enforcement officer by engaging in an action which is the moral equivalent (if not the actual equivalent) of criminal mischief and larceny.
Mr. George must condemn this act loudly and forcefully or forfeit the right to be taken seriously in his campaign (and the right for his campaign to be taken seriously is one he already grasps only tenuously at best).
Further, since the obvious starting point for any investigation of this incident is with Mr. George’s campaign, George should offer his full cooperation. Meanwhile, Mr. Hynes, to the extent he has any jurisdiction (this would seem to be a federal matter), should recuse himself immediately.
Though Mr. George has sometimes recklessly accused others of committing crimes, to the point where having him in charge of a prosecutor’s office is a bit scary, I would wager that George himself has no involvement with such actions, and I hope he acts soon to put himself on record in what I hope is his revulsion.
But, let me be clear, Mr. George has not been very careful about the sorts of people he associates with.
Last summer, Mr. George, a critic of Mr. Hynes for being too soft on child abuse in the Hasidic community, campaigned at an event hosted by Hasidic leaders who have held fundraisers for the legal defense of an accused child molester (something noted by bloggers on both sides of the Satmar divide), at least one of whom had even been arrested for trying to bribe a complainant.
In the aftermath of a recent sex crimes trial, it is clear that many in the Aroni Satmar community are now looking to teach Mr. Hynes a lesson about being too aggressive in pursuing justice for crime victims in their community who they would prefer not to go public.
Hunter Walker of the Observers clearly suspects that members of the same Hasidic faction are behind the webjacking (as opposed to the other sorts of jacking allegedly favored by some in the Aroni community).
But I think that there are other suspects at least as likely.
Many legitimate commentators feel Hynes committed an injustice years ago in a case in which Hynes office prosecuted a perennial political aspirant named John O’Hara for falsely registering to vote from an uninhabitable basement. From the thread which follows the piece linked, you will see that I myself have raised some questions about the wisdom of the O’Hara prosecution, even though I do not buy all the myths that have grown up around the case.
But you will also see something else in the thread, and that is that O’Hara has a cult around him that is capable of such acts of idiocy as accusing Hynes of framing an innocent man for murder in order to please the Brooklyn Republicans. In the thread, O’Hara’s friends also engage in character assassination and rampant gay bashing.
Some have even accused some of O’Hara’s friends of worse behavior.
Most importantly, this cult is obsessed with Joe Hynes. They live and breathe Joe Hynes. They think of Hynes more often than do some of his children.
Mr. George has made the O’Hara case, which dates back to the 1990s, a centerpiece of his campaign. In the column where he announced his candidacy, George makes the O’Hara case the first item in his Bill of Particulars. In turn, George has attracted the support of some of O’Hara’s eclectic pack of friends, including Room 8’s resident (we keep him locked in the basement) hateblogger Vince Nunes.
My guess is that they are backing Mr. George, instead of stronger candidate, because (a) Mr. George would speak to them, and (b) they are afraid that a stronger candidate might beat Mr. Hynes and leave them with too much time on their hands.
If I had to wager, I’d bet that the “Boss Vito” hijacking was the work of either Aronim or groupies of John O’Hara. Some of these people may also support Lincoln Restler as an afterthought, but if Restler’s people had written these posts, they would surely show more wit (where is Nick Rizzo when you need him?), while Restler himself is so devoid of any sense of humor that pulling any sort of prank, no matter how devoid of actual wit, is probably far beyond his capabilities.
Frankly though, I wouldn’t care if it the hijacking was done by “The Onion” (though that at least would have made for better reading).
I don’t even care that both the ostensible target of the highjacking (Lopez) and the real one (Hynes) have both earned being the dartboard for some sharp funny satire (if only someone would have the wit to produce some), if not worse.
I do not expect to be writing an endorsement of Joe Hynes, or any for other Kings DA candidate this year (though it is still possible)—but I think that his having to answer some of the difficult questions in his record would be a good thing.
That being said, supporting a DA candidate by engaging in quasi-criminal acts is really going a bridge too far.
We all should have the right, as Americans, to remain secure in our own homes and on our own websites. And those who would breach our security without our permission should be subjected to punishment (and their punishment should be at least as high a priority as punishing someone for falsely registering to vote from an uninhabitable basement).