Originally used to describe someone adept at computer programming, the term ‘hacker’ has developed criminal connotations and attained a degree of notoriety. Used to gain unauthorized access to data and to test the vulnerability of computer systems, hacking can support nefarious activity while also having the ability to expose corruption.

Through high-profile cases such as Wikileaks, organizations with the purported aim of complementing democracy and safeguarding citizens have come under increasing scrutiny over the way data is collected and handled. As democratic infrastructures adapt to the digital age and its potential dangers, can hacking protect and strengthen democracy?

In this webinar, Maureen Webb argues that hacking can cause necessary disruption to established institutions to ensure democratic accountability and encourage constructive development of systems and processes. In what ways can hacking be seen as a legitimate form of activism or civil disobedience? Can democracy in the digital age benefit from a ‘hacker ethos’? And what could be the role of the law in encouraging a popular narrative shift of on the nuanced role of hacking in society?


Maureen Webb, Author, Coding Democracy: How Hackers are Disrupting Power, Surveillance, and Authoritarianism (2020)

Chair: Joyce Hakmeh, Senior Research Fellow, International Security Programme; Co-Editor, Journal of Cyber Policy, Chatham House