[Stefan Krempl staged the following email Interview with Ricardo
Dominguez, a pioneer of Net activism and one of the founders of the
Electronic Disturbance Theater. The interview first appeared in
The Tribal Flood Network family that was programmed by the German hacker
Mixter has been in the news over the last few days as one of the tools
probably used in the Distributed Denial-of-Service attacks (DDoS) last
week against the likes of Yahoo.com
, or CNN.com
. Many people
think that the attacks could have been a protest against the on-going
process of the commercialisation of the Internet.
Just a few weeks ago the artist group Etoy celebrated its victory
against Etoys. The action taken against the toy seller was a protest
against the new commercial powers of the Internet. In the "toywar" a
denial-of-service tool was targeted against the Etoys website, the so-
called FloodNet. FloodNet was basically developed by the Electronic
Disturbance Theater (EDT)--a group of activists "managed" by Ricardo
Dominguez, Stefan Wray, Carmin Karasic and Brett Stalbaum--during the
Zapatista actions against the Mexican government. Telepolis talked with
Ricardo about the differences and similarities between TFN and FloodNet,
about the future of EDT (their site went offline after protests by Etoys
and other online activists against the use of FloodNet in December) and
Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD), and about the mix of real and
+ + +
Stefan Krempl: How do you judge the recent attacks?
Ricardo Dominguez: This was done in a more traditional hacker
disposition of secrecy and not as a specific form of information
dispersal on an issue--beyond the issue of power and who has it at the
Krempl: Have these crashers "stolen" your idea?
Ricardo Dominguez: They did not steal anybody's idea--they have just
added another tweak to the flow of code. You must remember that the
Zapatista Networks broke into the electronic fabric, as practice in
1994. Critical Art Ensemble helped to define Electronic Civil
Disobedience theory in 1995 as well. The Netstrike movement in Italy
emerged about 1996 as a practice that directly led to the development of
the Zapatista FloodNet and EDT in 1998. Then in 1999 the rise of
international Hacktivism. Each stealing from the next ad infinitum.
Krempl: Do you see any political or ideological connection between the
FloodNet and DDoS tools like the Tribal Flood Network family?
Dominguez: The Tribal Flood Net does function in a similar manner to the
Zapatista FloodNet in terms of not destroying the web site or hacking
into important data (the practice of Electronic Civil Disobedience).
Unlike, the Zapatista FloodNet is/was not mass- distributed in terms of
the number of individual's needed to create a disturbance on the URL --
the purpose of FloodNet is to distribute information.
EDT's actions are also transparent -- almost translucent. Everyone know
what we are going to do, when, and why -- everyone knows who we are.
Will the way TFN and other DDoS Tools were used against major web sites
change your opinion about using FloodNet?
Dominguez: No. I believe that different methods of Electronic Civil
Disobedience should be developed for use as quickly as possible by as
many groups as possible, on as many levels as possible for both on-line
and off-line activism. With non-violence and mass-representation as
disturbance at the heart of each script.
During the Etoy action we had a single-bullet script which could have
taken down Etoys--a tactical nuke, if you will. But, we felt this
script did not represent the presence of a global group of people
gathering to bear witness to a wrong, in the manner that the Zapatista
FloodNet does. We call for disturbances and distribution, not
EDT also wrote back in early 1998: "While at present a catalyst for
moving forward with ECD tactics, the Electronic Disturbance Theater
hopes to eventually blend into the background to become one of many
small autonomous groups heightening and enhancing the ways and means of
Krempl: Do you consider the protests against Etoys a cornerstone in
political activism on the Net?
Dominguez: The Etoy action showed us that Electronic Civil Disobedience
is an extremely useful tool when faced with a foe that only has a
digital presence. This is indeed a victory for the future of the small
and the many--something that the Zapatistas have shown as part of
their networked-culture since 1994.
Krempl: How many people join your virtual sit-in's usually?
Dominguez: Which Sit-In? The Etoy Sit-In's we have no numbers for. We
had many different sites doing action around the world. So it is hard to
know. As for the 16+ Zapatista Sit-In's between 1998 and 1999 against
the Mexican Government over 100,000+.
Krempl: Why did you choose to auction off the EDT site on The Thing in
December after it was shut down because of Etoys complaints against the
Dominguez: EDT wanted to raise money for the Chiapas Media Project (a
group who help Zapatista communities in Chiapas with Video and Computer
development). Since the site was no longer up -- we thought it would be
a good use for it.
Krempl: Did someone buy it?
Dominguez: No--not that I have heard.
Krempl: Was EDT the only FloodNet "technology"?
Dominguez: At one minute after midnight on Jan 1, 1999 we gave away the
software for the Zapatista FloodNet--since then several new versions
have been developed.
Krempl: There are more and more critics of virtual sit-in's and Internet
activism. They claim that virtual actions have no relations with
demonstrations on the street and that it is rather cynical to sit in
front of a computer while others fight the tear gas.
Dominguez: EDT has always promoted VR-sit-in's as part of a hybrid
action that takes place both on streets and on-line. The on-line element
being just one more tool that can be used by activist to bring focus on
the issues at hand. EDT has never promoted the idea that only electronic
action counts. Only that VR-sit-ins should be used as part of the many
activist tactics in use. On-line activism should be added to all the
other traditions that continue to be used by activists world wide.
EDT has also attempted to define what it means to have individuals
place themselves on-line. We don't hide behind hacker names and
invisibility--the .mil's, the .gov's, and the .com's know who we are
and what we do, and why we do it. We have attempted to continue the
tradition of non-violence and I think we have accomplished that.
I believe it is cynical to say that only one form of activism counts and
everything else does not.
As the Zapatista's say, "Each human will follow the road to action by
whatever means they have at hand." This just happens to be the tool at
hand for us at this moment in time. It has been our way to say "Ya
Basta!!" to the forces of Neo-Liberalism. An it has been an extremely
effective tool--but it is just that, a *tool*.
Krempl: What do you see as the future of Internet activism/hacktivism?
Dominguez: New methods of counter-surveillance using portable micro-
webcams will grow in use, as was the case of RealVideo use during the
WTO actions. Also new forms of the FloodNet system will continue to be
made. We will also see the use of Psy-Op actions against governments and
corporations as in the case of using Stock Trading Boards against Etoys
by activists to bring its stock value down.