Electronic Civil Disobedience

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What Does Electronic Civil Disobedience Mean?

Electronic civil disobedience (ECD) is any type of civil disobedience in which protesters or participants use any form information technology and the Internet to carry out their protests and actions.


This form of civil disobedience typically makes use of computers or any other Internet-capable device to perform protests, and as such is also known as hacktivism, although hacking is rarely involved since protesters actually want their causes, and to an extent, their identities known.

Electronic civil disobedience is also known as cyber civil disobedience.

Techopedia Explains Electronic Civil Disobedience

The term "electronic civil disobedience" was first used in the writings of the Critical Arts Ensemble (CAE), a collective of media artists and other practitioners, in their 1996 text "Electronic Civil Disobedience: And Other Unpopular Ideas." The purpose of ECD is to continue the practice of disruptive yet non-violent protests, which was pioneered by Henry David Thoreau, who published his text "Civil Disobedience" in 1848.

A common act of ECD is the DDoS-like form of protest called "virtual sit-ins" where participants simultaneously and continuously access a target website with the goal of disrupting its normal operations to prevent regular users from accessing it, by either slowing it down or crashing it entirely. Other forms include:

  • Signature campaigns
  • Discussions
  • Simple information drives

These are all done over the Internet with the use of blogs, discussion boards and other similar types of websites.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.