Solidarität ist unsere Waffe!

Montag, 24.06.2024

Online-Demo von 2001 in der Wissenschaft

Die Online-Demonstration gegen das Abschiebegeschäft der Lufthansa findet Erwähnung in dem von Sigrid Baringhorst, Veronika Kneip und Johanna Niesyto 2009 herausgegebenen Buch "Political Campaigning on the Web". In dem Artikel "Political Struggles within the Market Sphere" von Veronika Kneip ist ab Seite 182 zu lesen:

Campaign Stop Deportation Class - Channelled Activism?

The campaign Stop Deportation Class has been founded by the German network Organization Kein Mensch ist illegal (No human being is illegal), which is composed of a diverse array of human rights Organizations, church-related groups, refugee groups, artists, and other individuals. Kein Mensch ist illegal is committed to preventing the exclusion and deportation of immigrants who do not have residence permits. In 2000, the campaign Stop Deportation Class was launched to stop the involvement of the German Airline Lufthansa in deportations of asylum seekers. Lufthansa sells a large portion of the approximated 30,000 'deportee tickets' issued annually in Germany. Their involvement is described as a "deadly business" by the campaign Organizers (Initiative Libertad! 2007: 11). The tone of this accusation is derived from an incident that occurred in May 1999 when the Sudanese refugee Aamir Ageeb died as members of the German border police tried to immobilize him during bis deportation flight (Medosch 2003: 293). The initial actions of the campaign were devised at Lufthansa's annual general meeting in 2000, the first German online demonstration was planned for the following year in collaboration with the German leftist Organization advocating freedom of political prisoners worldwide, Initiative Libertad!. This was to be both an online and offline protest, planned by a core team of (volunteer) campaign Organizers but in its execution it looped back towards and depended upon a general bottom-up approach. More specifically, the Suggestion of the online demonstration was discussed at a national meeting of Kein Mensch ist illegal and membership of the core team was in principle free to all interested individuals. (The information concerning campaign structures and responsibilities are based upon an interview with Hans-Peter Kartenberg, spokesperson of the Initiative Liberad!, conducted by Veronika Kneip on 2 March 2008.)

The online demonstration represents one mode of channelled activism as it took place with the Support of individual activists but was structurally specified by the campaign organizers. The demonstration aimed at delimiting the capa-bility of the Lufthansa Website which was just being expanded to become an important platform of e-business for the corporation. It was designed as a new kind of mass protest, which adapted established forms of street protest "to the 'virtual urban space' of the Internet" (Autonome A.F.R.I.K.A. Gruppe et al. 2005: 1). Not unlike traditional demonstrations or sit-ins in front of corporate headquarters, it was regarded as an articulate critique that would disturb the routines of Lufthansa's business activity for a defined period. The campaign organizers emphasize in their campaign report that the online demonstration was not planned as a general blockade but as a virtual sit-in or a kind of electronic voting (Initiative Libertad! 2007: 9, 64). Consequently, the campaign did not focus on interfering with the corporate website in the most technically effective method availalile, but instead chose a method which itself demonstrated the core goal of mobilizing as many supporters as possible. The specific intention was for the protest to be performed by a multitude of individual reload requests and not by few Computer experts:

"[...] some political computer activists asked: 'Why do you protest that way? Wouldn't it be easier to hack the Lufthansa website?' But that was a point where we responded that it wasn't our concern to hack that website. Any hacker or anybody who is Computer literate can do that. We wanted to create a broad public sphere, a broad participation, and everybody should be able to get involved. Not everybody has got the technical skills to hack a website but everybody is able to call the Lufthansa Website from any web-enabled Computer - and that was our concern." (Interview with Hans-Peter Kartenberg, spokesperson of the Initiative Libertad!, condueted by Veronika Kneip on 2 March 2008, translation V.K.)

Against that backdrop, the Internet was not only adopted as a protest space but also as a place to mobilize in the run-up to the online demonstration. The mass support they hoped to generale was significantly aided by the snowball effect of email advertising (Initiative Libertad! 2007: 69). Furthermore, calls for action were published on various websites in the name of supporters who were already mobilized and, in turn, sought to spread the campaign message and encourage others to join. The most prominent supporter was Ricardo Dominguez, cofounder of the Electronic Disturbance Theatre (EDT), a group of artists and cyber activists engaged in developing the theory and practice of electronic civil disobedience. Amongst others, the group developed a program called Flood Net in order to support cyber activism (especially that of the Zapatista network) by 'flooding' an opponent's Website with requests. Dominguez joined the campaign Stop Deportation Class for a round trip across Germany and used bis own Website - a vital platform for online activists around the world - to call for participation in the online demonstration against Lufthansa (ibid.: 24; Interview with Hans-Peter Kartenberg). This offered a transnational dimen-sion to mobilization as campaign material was published in several languages on the established activist Website The possibility of transnational action is generally regarded as a main advantage of online activism by the campaign organizers:

Another advantage of an online demonstration is that it is possible to participate internationally. [...] Thus, there is the opportunity to gain a huge number of supporters. No one would take a plane from the US to demonstrate in Frankfurt - with the Internet it becomes possible (ibid.).

Despite the mentioned focus on mobilizing 'human' participation. the campaign provided software support in the tradidon of the EDT's FloodNet in order to automate and accelerate the reload requests on the Lufthansa website. A Java script was developed and spread via the Website and several mirror websites two days before the online demonstration which was scheduled to coincide with the Annual General Meeting of Lufthansa on 20 June 2001. To ensure the character of a democratic action and a human rather than a technical performance, the functionality of the software was subject to strict criteria:

  • no data should be destroyed
  • the Software should not infiltrate computers or be installed on computers without the knowledge of its legitimate user
  • the software should only initiate requests which could have been initiated by an ordinary browser
  • the software should only be operating within the defined period of the demonstration (20 June 2001, 10-12am) (Initiative Libertad! 2007:66, 72-73).

That way, the requests executed by a certain computer or IP address could still be understood as representative of the individual participant although the software enhanced the effectiveness of each activist's action. Besides, the software was of great importance for the campaign organizers to estimate the number of participants. The number of downloads, which amounted to more than 10,000, served as an approximadon of attendance and thus as a reference for the demonstration's success(ibid.: 78). (Lufthansa later referred to about 13,000 requests of different IP addresses within the period in question which the campaign actors regard as a validation of their estimation (ibid.).) Measuring participation, however, is only one challenge of channelled online activism in comparison to the corresponding forms of traditional protest:

"During a street protest, the participants directly experience the presence of the protesting multitude. In the context of virtual protest, the existence of this multitude must be mediated: a crucial task of the protesting community is to create a space for its mediated selfrepresentation" (Autonome A.F.R.I.K.A. Gruppe et al. 2005: 4).

In the case of the Stop Deportation Class campaign, Internet technology was applied in two different ways to visualize the process and success of protest ac-tion. as well as to create a sense of community and enable exchange of the participants. With regard to the first aspect the campaign referred to the Independent Media Center or indymedia website where the performance of the Lufthansa website was illustrated:

Performance of the Lufthansa website during the online demonstration (Initiative Libertad! 2001).

Regarding the second aspect the online journal com.mue.farce supported the campaign by installing a chat room on its website. Participants of the online demonstration could shape protest action personally and share their impressions and points of view during the period of action (Initiative Libertad! 2007: 58). Nevertheless, it has to be stated — and is also concluded by the campaign organizers themselves — that the measures taken to enhance community aspects of online activism cannot replace the experience of mass protest on the streets (ibid.: 80).

Besides the chat room, which can be regarded as an expression of self-organisation. The campaign arranged an electronic mailing list in order to involve the suggestions of individual activists concerning the online demonstration, while it also included edited aspects of information. The campaign, thus, not only established the website, but also created campaign pages on the websites of the organizations involved by providing background material concerning the campaign issues. Internet use by Stop Deportation Class, therefore, was not restricted to channelled activism, but rather synchronized participation around the online demonstration as its key task. The demonstration can be regarded as an essential method of using the Internet as a "weapon" against Lufthansa, although the impact of the online demonstration remains contested. Whereas the campaign organizers asserted multiple constraints on the website's accessibility, the corporation declared that it had been hardly interfered with during the attack (Medosch 2003: 296). Although the success of Anti-Corporate Campaigns is often subject to conflicting interpretations, these subsequent interpretations particularly shape online activism due to the missing dimension of immediate experience. Despite these constraints, channelled online activism features important qualities as a 'weapon' within Anti-Corporate Campaigns. The Internet allows for, in particular, mobilization of mass participation on a transnational scale, but it also allows for the establishment of an arena for innovative forms of low-threshold activism, which may provide a potential foundation for raising political awareness.

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