Pablo Gannon

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Final Post


SOPA and PIPA were pieces of congressional legislation which granted the United States government additional powers to regulate internet websites and digital content with an emphasis on "copyright protection."

Rather than containing provisions to actually remove copyrighted content, both bills focused on the censorship of links to entire domains. If a website were to be served with a court order, the people running it would have been required to remove all content containing links to a named domain, even if it didn't contain infringing content, as well as implement a system to prevent future content from the domains in question.

SOPA and PIPA were controversial in part because this kind of regulation would have been easy to abuse for censorship purposes, yet it is not difficult for websites which host copyright infringing content to work around it.[1]


Anyone can be anonymous online, to an extent, while undertaking sufficient privacy protections. The term Anonymous when used to name a group generally refers to a loosely-affiliated leaderless hacker collective which undertakes a variety of "operations," whether those be coordinated group efforts to help revolutionaries fight against oppressive governments such as OpTunisia and OpEgypt, or more whimsical hacks such as an attack on "" after their customer service hotline refused to explain how magnets work.

Due to the amorphous nature of the group, it is difficult to pin down and define and there is no mechanism of central control which enables it establish through a rigidly establish hierarchy, although anonymous people certainly can organize with one another and others to varying degrees and be recognized as leaders in their own right depending on the actions they take or the sacrifices they have made.[2]


Groups of hackers, like Anonymous, relate to movements to protect online privacy in a variety of ways. In order to truly be anonymous online and use the internet for more than the most basic of functions, one needs to undertake measures to protect one's privacy and preserve the anonymity of one's actions online.

In instances such as OpTunisia and OpEgypt, Anonymous provided support to revolutionaries on the ground through the provision of privacy-enhancing software, which enabled said revolutionaries to workaround the censorship and surveillance regimes of the governments in question, to an extent.

Due to the amorphous nature of Anonymous, government agents as well as violent non-state actors can be anonymous when using the internet, and for this reason even the act of looking up privacy enhancing tools can land you on the NSA's watchlist.[3]


Edward Snowden's revelations are closely related to Anonymous' involvement with Occupy Wallstreet as well as the relationship between anonymity and privacy protection more generally. For instance, the data-mining firm Palantir, which was initially financed by the CIA and geared towards military intelligence, has since expanded its client-base to become a contractor for financial institutions such as those which have come under increased scrutiny due to the occupy wall street movement. [4]

In addition, in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations, more people have become concerned about governmental and corporate attempts to undermine anonymity (through surveillance) as well as potential ways of circumventing surveillance through the use of privacy-enhancing software. It has become clear that questions surrounding anonymity, privacy, and the internet are very important when it comes to the relationship between the United States military, government, and many of the largest corporations in the world today.

In particular, it has become increasingly clear that “information warfare” is a very important part of the U.S. Military’s strategy today and that the internet and questions of privacy and anonymity are of paramount importance when it comes to this strategy. For instance, with respect to the “war on terrorism,” a debate has cropped up about whether Snowden’s revelations have aided terrorists by alerting them to security vulnerabilities and the need for increased privacy protections to circumvent NSA surveillance. [5]

In January of 2013, an investigative journalist named Michael Hastings tweeted that he was beginning to work on a story about Barrett Brown, a jailed journalist who was a part of Anonymous. [6] Scarcely one week after Edward Snowden’s revelations began, Hastings sent an email to several colleagues claiming that he needed to go “off the rada[r].” [7] Approximately three hours later his car was seen crashing into a tree at over one hundred miles an hour, resulting in an explosion which left him dead. Since this happened there has been speculation that the crash happened as a result of “car hacking,” and former U.S. counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke described what happened as “consistent with a car cyber attack.” [8] The last article Hastings had written was titled “Why Democrats love to spy on Americans,” further illustrating the highly charged nature of the relationship between mass surveillance, Anonymous, and hacking. [9]


[1] Havey, Jason (2012) A technical examination of SOPA and PROTECT IP

[2] Norton, Quinn (2012) 2011: The Year Anonymous Took On Cops, Dictators and Existential Dread (read)








Post 1

1) EVE Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) which was developed by CCP Games and first released on May 6th, 2003. It stands out from other MMORPGs in that to an unusually large degree, its development is determined by the players rather than the developers.

EVE is set more than 21,000 years in the future, and gameplay revolves around the creation of customizable ships which explore numerous star systems and enable players to fight each other, forge alliances, and gather resources. While many battles are minor, some battles are large enough to be classified as wars; large wars permanently alter the landscape of the game, and so the players are responsible not only for creating the history of the game but also for altering and transforming the space in which gameplay takes place. EVE owes its popularity in large part to this feature of the game, which differs remarkably from otherwise similar MMORPG games like Everquest, Guild Wars, and World of Warcraft.

2) In “The Microhistory of EVE Online,” David R. Hussey largely focuses on the player-driven nature of EVE Online, in an attempt to figure out why one unusually large battle (the Bloodbath at B-R5RB) was so noteworthy that it was covered in mainstream media outlets such as Forbes, BBC News, and CBS News. Hussey argues that this media coverage was a consequence of EVE’s player-driven nature, and explores how this media coverage happened parallel to EVE players’ ongoing efforts to document the history of their virtual world as well as the developers’ decision to put a war memorial where the battle took place.

3) In order to demonstrate the social, cultural, and political importance of EVE online, and help the reader make sense of the fact that a battle which took place within the game would be covered by outlets like Forbes, BBC News, and CBS News, Hussey repeatedly emphasizes the scope of EVE Online in order to demonstrate what is at stake in battles like this. Hussey contextualizes the seeming strangeness of a video-game military skirmish receiving news coverage by pointing out that the combined size of EVE’s two-largest coalitions exceeds the population of Greenland, and further notes that the total damage which resulted from the battle itself was estimated to be around $300,000.

Hussey further demonstrates that the players of EVE online are also taking stock of the social, cultural, and political importance of events like this and incorporating “media coverage” into how the game is played and the history of conflict is shared with others by noting that GoonSwarm, the largest corporation in EVE online, maintains a website which documents information about many of the most important leaders and events which have occurred in EVE’s history. As GoonSwarm was the largest victor of what has been termed the “Second Great War” in EVE history, Hussey argues that the same power dynamics which underlie the adage “history is written by the victors” are also present in the relationship between warfare and history of EVE.

4) In response to Hussey’s article, there were two comments posted. The first, by “Boris,” reflects on what he perceives to be rather troubling in the degree to which the simulated virtual warfare of EVE online is accompanied by parallel “histories” and “memorials” just as actual warfare is. Noting that the virtual warfare of EVE online is a “life or death” matter for virtual characters rather than real people, he suggests that the attempt to forge an online community through this kind of historiography & commemoration risks “internalising the questionable tendency to hide the horrors of real war behind redacted media coverage, the fairy tale of clean precision strikes executed by high-technology and the far spread notion that war is just a question of superior resource-availability.”

The second comment, which was posted by “Ed,” remarks simply that while Hussey claimed that “there are more than half a million subscribers to EVE Online that are actively creating a tangible history of New Eden” (New Eden being the name of the fictional world in which the game is set), a large number of these subscribers are no longer active.

While I agree with Hussey’s argument, my own experience with EVE online leads me to suggest that more attention and emphasis needs to be given to the real monetary dimension of what is at stake in the game, especially in light of Boris’ comment about the unreality of the warfare which is taking place.

I have only played EVE online for a few hours, but my interest in the game was piqued when I read about a “heist” in which one corporation of players, over the course of nearly a year, infiltrated another corporation, until finally one of the infiltrators earned the trust of the leader of the first corporation and gained access to its bank. The infiltrators raided the target corporations coffers, stealing what amounted to nearly $170,000 worth of in-game assets, in what amounted to a completely legal maneuver in terms of the rules of the game. [1]

My experience with EVE was thus over-determined by the shockingly real monetary stakes of the game; having played other MMORPGs where this kind of maneuver was simply not possible, I wanted to see what the game was like.