Hacks of Valor | Yochai Benkler - Foreign Affairs
Many of these cases, however, are ambiguous: Last November, for example, #Anonymous activists released the personal details of a police officer who had pepper-sprayed protesters at the University of California, Davis. Similar personal disclosures were a mainstay of the hacks against Arizona law-enforcement officers in 2011. In those cases, there are fewer easy answers to the questions of who is a valid target, what of that target’s information can rightfully be exposed, and who gets to answer these very questions.
We are left, then, with the task of assessing threats in a state of moral ambiguity. In more naïve times, one might naturally prefer a law-bound state deciding which power abuses should be reined in and which information exposed. But these are no longer naïve times. A decade that saw the normalization in U.S. policy of lawless detentions, torture, and targeted assassinations; a persistent refusal to bring those now or formerly in power, in both the public and private sectors, to account for their failures; and a political system that increasingly favors the rich have eroded that certitude. Perhaps that is the greatest challenge that Anonymous poses: It both embodies and expresses a growing doubt that actors with formal authority will make decisions of greater legitimacy than individuals acting collectively in newly powerful networks and guided by their own consciences.
Anonymous demonstrates one of the new core aspects of power in a networked, democratic society: Individuals are vastly more effective and less susceptible to manipulation, control, and suppression by traditional sources of power than they were even a decade ago.