The Pirate Party’s big electoral victory means it needs to grow up

This is the “minister of telecommunications and foreign affairs for the Republic of CyberBunker” you are looking for.
This is the “minister of telecommunications and foreign affairs for the Republic of CyberBunker” you are looking for.
Image: Spanish Interior Ministry
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There is much rejoicing among the world’s techno-liberals today at the news that the Pirate Party has convincingly won a real election. First founded in Sweden, pirate parties argue for copyright reform and more liberal policies toward digital rights. They have a presence in most European and North American countries.

Germans have previous elected pirates at state level, the Swedes have a couple in the European parliament, and the Czechs managed to pull together a coalition to elect a pirate senator. But Iceland has topped them all: The Nordic nation’s 63-member parliament now has three members who are pirates, all elected without the assistance of a coalition.

But this does not mean the Pirate Party is now a full-grown adult member of world politics. It is merely the first step to it. Consider this its first outbreak of adolescent acne.

The pirates organize themselves in unorthodox ways, their list of policy priorities is quite restricted (link in Icelandic), and their success in getting things done, even just staying together, has been patchy. These things can change. More important, for now, is what the group is associated with.

Last week, a man was arrested in Barcelona for the massive attack on Spamhaus that originated from a group called CyberBunker. The man is thought to be Sven Olaf Kamphuis, self-styled “minister of telecommunications and foreign affairs for the Republic of CyberBunker.” Turns out that the attack did not originate from a secure bunker in the Netherlands, as previously thought, but from “a van that he used as an office mobile computer, equipped with various antennas to scan frequencies” (link in Spanish).

The Spanish interior ministry yesterday released pictures of the man. Kamphuis is seen wearing a Pirate Party t-shirt.

It is hard to argue that copyright laws don’t need updating, though we can disagree on the specifics of it, or that digital access should be abundant and cheap. But CyberBunker’s actions leave no room for ambiguity. There is no enshrined right to spam the world’s inboxes, nor to retaliate with a malicious attack when a service attempts to block undesirable email.

As it grows up, the Pirate Party will need to refine its ideology and find a balance between the ideal vision of online freedom it espouses and the unsavoury activities and people it can easily find itself associated with. That is a tricky line to walk, especially since it can’t pick its supporters and members. It will be fascinating to watch.