Incredible Autobus 13

Autobus Members:

Christine Chu –
Hannah Harlow-
Anthony Rossi –
Jen Steichen –
Mary Ann Bennett –

Our team will be analyzing the idea of vigilante justice online. We will be researching the different types of online communities in which this sort of activity is common, the types of users that get involved, the causes that they are pushing for or against, and the successes and failures of movements such as Anonymous. During our research, we will also examine the role that gender plays for online vigilantes (whether gender difference is ignored, welcomed, or discouraged). Together, we will create an online presentation composed of infographics and short videos to report what we find! To make sure our project is completed on time we will meet every week online to compare notes and compile important information on a Google Doc. We will also meet in person every two weeks to have more in depth discussion and create media!

Every system relies on the contribution of many parts in order to functionally run. Often, a system requires the presence of administrators to correct missteps and get things back on track. Keren Elazari likens this to an immune system in her TEDtalk, Hackers: the Internet’s immune system. Rather than enforce one set of agreed upon laws, self-appointed individuals judge others on a case-by-case basis for problems occurring on the Internet. They deem a behavior unfit in one context based upon their own personal or community values. This vigilante justice system is equivalent to the Wild West, without enforcement or existence of a real legal presence online. People implement their own system where they determine a need to exist.

Vigilante justice takes on many forms, both online and in the physical world. The term ‘digilante justice’ refers to acts of vigilante justice taking place in the digital realm. In a broader sense, the term ‘vigilante’ applies to a person, or group of people, who run the risk of breaking the law in order to serve justice where they see fit. Vigilantes accomplish their goal of punishing criminals by ignoring law enforcement. More often than not, vigilantes are not licensed members of law enforcement or legally trained on how to respond to criminal activity. These local justice fighters believe law enforcement to be unproductive and unhelpful, forcing the vigilantes to take it upon themselves to punish criminals for their actions. Whether for community improvement or satisfying a personal vendetta, some believe vigilante justice is different in comparison to volunteer crime fighting organizations such as the Neighborhood Watch Association.

Believers in the vigilante justice system support the movement and its followers because they act on crimes when it is believed the legal system cannot or will not. Vigilantes can bypass the judicial paperwork and processes prohibiting immediate punishment response times for law enforcement officials. On the other hand, there are several objections to the vigilante justice system. It’s a controversial topic leading people to question the moral intentions of vigilantes. These actions are not legal or organized and it prevents a fair trial, which is what makes a community democratic and humane. Participants can also have personal connections to the criminal, creating biased action and thought.

Many pursue digital vigilantism as a response to injustice and a call for heroism. In some cases, digilantism appeals to people because one is above the law and calling their own shots. In the world of caped crusaders, it’s the difference between Batman adhering to his own “no guns” moral code and inconsistent Wolverine who seems to make it up as he goes. Platforms like chat rooms and social media give us the power to flag comments and block users. People use these features subjectively in response to content they find problematic, as well as to troll other users and prematurely end conversations.  Devin Coldewey’s article Dawn of the Digilante predicts the current digilante climate could have a pendulum effect in the years to come. Coldewey sees the future as having, “more restrictive security policies, harsher penalties, and newly granted powers make that process of finding and sharing information more difficult and more risky”. The Wild West of the Internet could soon be over. It is important to recognize which tactics effectively police the web and which detrimentally affect drafting legislation regulating the Internet. Often a governing force would prove helpful, but determining the extent of their power and the regulations they enforce will be an extremely difficult task.

As stated before, ‘digilantism’ is the act of serving justice on the web by sometimes breaking the law in order to receive a desired outcome.  Those that participate in digital vigilantism are not always licensed law enforcement officials allowed to deal out punishment to criminals for their actions.  The group Anonymous exemplifies those who do not have the proper law enforcement qualifications required for certain digilante acts of justice.

Anonymous’ most recent act of digilantism was on Monday, December 1st when they managed to hack into and crash two websites owned by the city of Fort Lauderdale. The hacktivist group was not pleased with Mayor Jack Seiler and the new laws that targeted the city’s homeless population. Anonymous posted a video on YouTube of a masked individual telling Mayor Seiler to repeal the recently passed laws against homeless persons being allowed to sleep in public places, panhandling, and restricting the ability of organizations and individuals feeding the homeless. The laws were passed to help shrink the city’s growing homeless population. If the laws were not repealed within 24 hours, Anonymous threatened to take down the police website and the main city website. The mayor refused to comply and the sites were taken down, but it did not take long for them to be reinstated.

Anonymous became so up-in-arms about the laws when Florida police handed out citations and almost arrested three individuals, two priests and a 90 year-old volunteer, for feeding a group of homeless people. The laws passed to curb the increasing amount of people identifying as homeless in the Fort Lauderdale area, inciting the attention of Anonymous. This action of digilantism represents one of many Anonymous has participated in. Anonymous is only one of many groups looking to seek justice through digital vigilance.

Digilante justice in the future is uncertain, but we made a video glimpsing at what the plotting and vigilante acts of a hacktivist group might look like.  We felt this was the best way to educate our audience and to express the amount of access that can be attained by these groups.  We posted this on a website containing stories, blog posts, and a Twitter feed about all types of digilante acts and stories.  Digilante justice evolves alongside social media and the Internet.  Our group wanted to hone in on this specific topic because, with the evolution of technology, such acts of digilante justice will progress and alter.  It is important as an outsider, participator, and law enforcement member to understand the acts that are occurring and to predict the ones that will happen.  Vigilante justice is hard to navigate within the judicial system, due to its recent appearance and the difficulty drawing a line on illegal and legal action.  We find these actions need to be looked into and monitored in order for safety and equality to exist on the Internet, as well as in the world outside the digital sphere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s