Recently there have been significant malware attacks occurring globally. While these attacks are nuisances and appear to be against the law, these cyber hackers attempted to justify their actions by claiming the attack was primarily against devices that do not meet cyber security standards. It is clear these hackers see themselves as cyber vigilantes and appear to be under the impression that “the city needs them.” In addition to being major annoyances, these cyber vigilantes force us to wonder what effects they could have on society, and how they compare to non-cyber vigilante organizations.
How is this relevant to world peace? Discussions of world peace often require discussing terrorist groups and oppressive governments. Where these governments and groups exist, vigilante organizations are frequently formed to combat them. The classic perception of a vigilante is an outlaw operating in the ‘wild west’ of old America, or Batman-esque figures operating to rid their cities of crime.
Today, with the rise of social media and the increasing complexities of the issue, a new forum has opened for a unique form of vigilante, known as digital vigilantes. Anonymous is potentially the best known of these organizations, a global group operating to ‘fight the man.’ Anonymous has advanced cyber attacks on various well-known organizations, such as ISIS and the Ku Klux Klan.
Anonymous and other digital vigilantes bring international conflicts into our hands. They seemingly give people the opportunity to help in the effort to stop these crimes against peace, without having to leave their homes. However, there is a reason why vigilantism is widely seen as unethical, and dangerous for society. Amnesty International has reported on numerous occasions about vigilante crime fighters who commit just as many human rights violations as those they are supposedly protecting citizens against. Similarly, while the intentions of digital vigilantes are noble in appearance, the power these tech savvy individuals gain through cyber attacks creates numerous violations of international human rights. Vigilante organizations completely disregard law enforcement, governments, the rule of law and the justice system as a whole.
As such, these cyber organizations aiming to ‘fight the man’ and ‘give power back to the people’ can be compared to the vigilante organizations operating in Northern Africa and the Middle East that Amnesty International makes reference to. Any vigilante group is dangerous, however, the accessibility and lack of repercussions attached to digital vigilante groups make for more danger.