Online demonstration

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An online demonstration or a virtual sit-in is a form of political action on the World Wide Web . By repeatedly calling up a particular homepage from numerous computers and within a specified period of time, the intention is to block the server via which the homepage in question can be reached. In the event of a technical success, the corresponding website is inaccessible or can only be accessed very slowly.

Online demonstrations have the character of a blockade or a sit-in. Like conventional demonstrations, they are directed against the politics of states, corporations, organizations etc. and aim to paralyze the website through access by numerous demonstrators.

Technically, online demonstrations are a specific form of DDoS attack. In online demonstrations, however, no third-party computers - for example in the form of a bot network  - are used. In order to be technically successful, a large number of participants is necessary.


The first documented action under this concept took place on December 21, 1995. The Strano Network group held a virtual sit-in on various sides of the French government to protest the nuclear tests on the Pacific atoll of Mururoa . Internet users were encouraged to return to these pages for an hour. This had little effect, as the Internet was not yet as popular as it is today and therefore there was little response and participation. It wasn't until three years later, on January 29, 1998, that the next direct action took place on the Internet. Various sites were blocked by Mexican financial institutions for an hour. An Anonymous Digital Coalition called for this to raise awareness of the war between the Mexican army and the EZLN in the province of Chiapas .

The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT) around Ricardo Dominguez had developed the Zapatista Floodnet Tool , a now legendary script that automatically reloaded the Internet pages to be attacked in order to "flood" the server in question. In December 1999 EDT was involved in the so-called toywar , a week-long net battle between the toy company eToys and the artist group etoy . The EDT is now regarded as a pioneer of electronic resistance. Dominguez sees online demonstrations in the tradition of the American civil rights movement of the 1960s and calls them "electronic civil disobedience ".

Online demos in Germany

The first online demonstration in Germany took place on June 29, 2000, between 9:15 pm and 10:00 pm. As part of the ActiveLink project of the Merz Academy in Stuttgart, the internet activist Alvar Freude organized an online protest against the legislation and liability rules regarding hyperlinks. The occasion was mass warnings from the lawyer Günter Freiherr von Gravenreuth regarding links to external websites. The online demo should be the starting signal for the establishment of an online demonstration platform. The platform continues today as, but no longer used the demonstration format of an online demonstration. Joy later played a leading role in the campaigns against the blocking of foreign websites in North Rhine-Westphalia and against the Access Restriction Act as well as in the establishment of the working group against internet blocking and censorship , thus continuing the goals of the first online demo by other means. He saw virtual sit-ins as a form of protest as legitimate if the issue is online and other forms of protest are difficult or impossible to implement.

Often the first online demonstration is wrongly an action by the initiatives Libertad! And nobody is illegal in the context of the anti-racist Deportation.class campaign, which criticized the participation of airlines in state deportations through a variety of forms of action. The organizations called for the Lufthansa website to be blocked for two hours on the day of the Lufthansa shareholders' meeting, which took place in Cologne on June 20, 2001 . The demonstration was registered with the Cologne public order office . The initiators specified “” as the meeting place.

The demonstration had its first success before it even started. The online demonstration was picked up by many German print and internet media and also received worldwide media coverage. The report also informed them of their concerns and thus made Lufthansa's deportation business a subject. Over 13,000 people finally took part in the online demonstration against Lufthansa. Protest software was also used, the source code of which has now been published. During the two-hour blockade, the group's website could not be accessed anywhere in the world for almost ten minutes, and the rest of the time was difficult or impossible to access.

Lufthansa filed a criminal complaint after the demonstration. As part of the investigation, there were house searches and numerous confiscations of private and business premises in Libertad in October 2001 ! . In the early summer of 2005, a trial against the domain owner of "" took place at the Frankfurt am Main district court for coercion and incitement to criminal offenses . The accused was in May 2006 by the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main in the revision process acquitted. In the grounds of the judgment, the court found that an online demonstration “neither fulfills the criteria of violence nor that of the threat of a sensitive evil”.

During the trial of Libertad! was called as a solidarity campaign for an online demonstration against the expansion of Frankfurt Airport on the website of the airport operator Fraport .


Only in Germany have there been criminal proceedings against online demonstrations. The Frankfurt public prosecutor's office interpreted the online demo against Lufthansa as coercing Lufthansa customers and Lufthansa itself. After a two-day trial, the court agreed with this view. Coercion was given both because of the use of force and because of the threat of a sensitive evil. The judgment was controversial among lawyers. Quite a few see online demonstrations covered by the fundamental right to freedom of expression and assembly . In July 2005 an appeal was filed against the judgment of the Frankfurt District Court. The Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main acquitted the initiators of the online demo in May 2006 and declared that an online demonstration contained "neither the element of violence nor the threat of a sensitive evil" (file number: 1 Ss 319/05) .

In the meantime, there is also a statement by the federal government on the question of whether online demonstrations represent a gathering in the constitutional sense: In its response to a so-called minor question from the Die Linke parliamentary group , the federal government states that "virtual gatherings due to lack of physicality" are not gatherings in the Within the meaning of Article 8 GG. This means that the initiators of these "online demonstrations" cannot invoke the basic right of assembly.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Thomas Dreher: Link, Filters and Freedom of Information: ODEM . In: IASL online: Lessons in NetArt
  2. Thorsten Pifan: "Virtual sit-down" in front of the Federal Ministry of Justice . Spiegel Online , June 28, 2000
  3. Demonstrated online . In: PC Welt , June 30, 2000
  4. Strike for your right! ( Memento from June 20, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  5. Further sources
  6. Reinhold Grether: Platform for online demonstrations . June 26, 2000
  7. Internet censorship in Germany . 2002. Retrieved February 15, 2014.
  8. Description of the process of a demo
  9. Online demo against the expansion of Frankfurt Airport
  10. BT-Drs. 17/10379
  11. BT-Drs. 17/10271