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A virtual sit-in is a type of electronic civil disobedience (ECD) where activists and protesters voice their opinions by simultaneously accessing a website multiple times, creating disruption of the target website. The term name is derived from the popular non-violent form of protests popular during the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s.
A virtual sit-in is also known as a virtual blockade.
A virtual sit-in is geared toward slowing down a target website or even crashing it completely, thereby preventing access by regular users. It is meant to recreate the type of public disruptions caused by actual sit-ins in public areas through occupying and effectively preventing proper operations. However, this is difficult to accomplish because of technological advancements and increased Web server capabilities.
For example, in a real world sit-in, protesters may go to a coffee shop and order the cheapest item on the menu and sit in the shop for hours or days until they are forced to leave, thereby undermining service to other customers, causing the shop to lose money and customers for the protest's duration. A virtual sit-in can occur in any public location or event, like a street, library or meeting.
A virtual sit-in is actually a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack but far less harmful in application, as modern Web resources are more than capable of handling large amounts of traffic. It would take thousands or millions of coordinated individuals to participate in a virtual sit-in before its effect would be akin to that of an actual DDoS attack involving botnets and automation.