Hacktivism and cyberterrorism: human rights issues in state responses

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Laitala, Nuutti
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This study examines hactivism and cyberterrorism, how OSCE participating states have responded to these phenomena and have these responses respected user’s human rights, especially the right to freedom of expression. Right to Freedom of Expression is a fundamental human right in international human rights law. This right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and seek, receive and impart information and ideas trough any media and regardless of frontiers. Hacktivism is nonviolent use of illegal or legally ambiguous digital tools in pursuit of political ends. Cyberterrorism consists of politically motivated illegal attacks against information, computer systems, programs and data resulting in violence against noncombatant targets. OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organisation of 56 states. The organisation has a comprehensive approach to security, including politico-military, economic, environmental and human aspects. OSCE participating states have different kinds of approaches to respond to the acts of hacktivism and cyberterrorism. This study is based on literature review on relevant topics. It will not go deep into technical or legal details, but aims to give an overview of the situation in the OSCE participating states. Main focus for the legal instruments is on the United Nations and Council of Europe standards adopted by OSCE. A short case study on Poland is included. Software piratism, copyright issues and cyber war attacks conducted by states are outside the scope of this study. The study found out, that hacktivists and cyberterrorists share many tools and methods, but the main differences between these phenomena are intended use of violent methods and level of concern for the welfare of the other users. However, academia, governments and mass media often place hacktivism and cyberterrorism in the same category. OSCE states have responded to hacktivism and cyberterrorism with domestic legislation and institutions, international conventions, technical measures and specialized institutions. More focused and human rights respecting co-operation is needed. Current, imposed content filtering and blocking methods may violate users’ right to freedom of expression.
Second semester University: Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan.
communication technology, cyberterrorism, freedom of expression, hacktivism, OSCE