This website is an archive of the work of Marietje Schaake in the European Parliament between 2009 and 2019. Marietje can be reached at

The perfect plot: the Sony hack

sony-hack The debate about the hacking and leaking of e-mails from Sony employees, and the reactions that ensued, illustrate how reality can sometimes be more absurd than fiction. Had the situation not been so serious, it might have been funny. In the meantime, the White House has announced sanctions against North Korean individuals, while many security experts doubt that the hack can even be attributed to North Korea. The plot is becoming increasingly dramatic. Yesterday, the CEO of Sony announced that the company had been the victim of "one of the most vicious and malicious cyber attacks that we’ve known in recent history". Obviously, the extent to which its own systems are secured was never mentioned. The CEO did pronounce himself to support freedom of expression. In an earlier stage however, Sony chose to voluntarily delay the release of the movie 'The Interview'. The press conference provided a unique opportunity to sound fierce and heroic rather than negligent and anxious. The film studio could not have wished for better publicity for a movie which' reviews did not predict a bestseller. Companies Companies are increasingly confronted with decisions whether or not to show controversial movies and other content. In 2012, the White House pressured Google to take the movie 'The Innocence of Muslims' offline, following violent demonstrations. Violence, threats or attacks should not be rewarded with censorship or the curtailing of fundamental freedoms. It should be no surprise that a company will try to save its reputation and attempt to sell its products in a clever manner. Yet these companies, with their global reach, have the responsibility to refrain from acts of (self) censorship. It is even more shocking how easily the United States government falls back to the use of war talk, while many experts in the field of digital security have indicated that angry employees, fired by Sony, are likely to have knowledge necessary to have committed the hack. War But for those wanting cyberwar measures at their disposal, a hack by an undeniable adversary like North Korea constitutes an ideal opportunity. Earlier, American security experts had already warned for something like a 'cyber Pearl Harbor'. By mentioning a war threat, far reaching measures which curtail fundamental freedoms, become more easily justifiable. Unfortunately this trend has not only shown to be a problem in the war on terror but is increasingly spreading in relation to the digital domain. Freedoms and values are being diluted under the guise of protecting national security. We should be very worried that satire and a hack into a movie production company can be used as a pretexf for war. President Obama has promised a proportionate and well-timed response. The question remains whether this has been the case. On the one hand, placing a number of North-Korean individuals on a list of sanctions is symbolic, rather than having concrete consequences. On the other hand, by imposing sanctions the North-Korean government is targeted as the instigator of the hack. Naturally, the North-Korean government denies any involvement. Questions about the attribution of a cyber attack, and what would constitute a proportional response, currently remain unanswered. Rules and laws relating to cyber attacks are yet to be adopted. That the US government is undertaking action without clear evidence or a legal framework is unwise and even dangerous. Just when the worldwide web offers billions of people the opportunity to gain uncensored access to information, it is crucial that companies and governments do not yield to pressure. If Sony attaches the level of importance to freedom of expression as they say they do, they should never have voluntarily recalled the movie from theatres. By curtailing freedoms out of fear, you only play into the hands of those wishing to sow terror. Meanwhile, important questions about data protection and critical infrastructures are shoved under the rug. When the discussion is focused on war, it is argued that there are more important matters to deal with than protecting fundamental rights online.