What was billed as a triumph for cyber activism, Jam Echlelon Day, turned into complete mayhem Thursday when newsgroups and mailing lists were inundated with "subversive" gibberish and random abuse.
A bitter spam and flame-fest ensued, with popular underground-culture mailing lists such as Cyberpunks and Hacktivism so overloaded with nonsense concerning drugs, bombs, and Iraqi ambassadors -- designed to clog up the semi-mythical Echelon monitoring machine -- that many contributors questioned the co-ordination of the event. Others showed less self control, descending into plain old-fashioned abuse, adding to the overall confusion.
Anyone who subscribes to even mildly cyber-political lists will have found their mail boxes swelled to bursting with these often very long messages and the event consequently drew considerable fire.
One hapless contributor to Hacktivism noted: "Hey I've changed my mind about this Echelon thing, during the course of going through my inbox. I wouldn't have credited hacktivists with such a blatant disregard for the usual standards of netiquette: Spam! And lots of it too!"
Another subscriber to Cyberpunks moaned: "I've spoken out about jamming Echelon the last time the idea came up, and I vowed to keep my mouth shut this time. But I have received just too many mails on too many mailing lists that had this crazy list of all-capitalised naughty words stuck at the end."
However, when one less-than-sensible individual wrote this on Hacktivism, mayhem unsurprisingly ensued: "Oh, for crying out loud! Is everyone going to post your stupid word list to lists all day? F*** off, you're wasting system resources. At least send your s*** around to government servers if you're going to insist on the vanity of it! This is a most arrogant American-centric exercise in misinformation."
Some campaigners against online governmental monitoring expressed concern about the practicality of the event even before it was launched. Online privacy campaigner Malcom Hutty director of Satnd.org believes that this is a price worth playing for demonstrating on such a worthwhile issue. "People march down the street and disrupt traffic in order to reach people who don't necessarily want to be disrupted. As a society we have agreed that intrusive non-violent protest is to a degree acceptable. Whether this actually jams Echelon is not the point."
Hutty concedes however that occasionally this sort of thing can go too far adding, "Of course there are degrees of good sense in organising this without antagonising people."
They can see you... Read about how and why in Surveillance , a ZDNet News Special.