A type of cyberattack that has slowed websites at several large banks should be protected as a legal form of protest, according to a petition sent to the Obama administration.
The petition, posted Monday on a White House website, calls on the administration to recognize denial of service attacks, which barrage websites with the aim of bogging them down, as the digital equivalent of massing in the streets.
"With the advance in internet technology, comes new grounds for protesting," reads the petition. "Instead of a group of people standing outside a building to occupy the area, they are having their computer occupy a website to slow (or deny) service of that particular website for a short time."
The petition also calls for the release of anyone who has "been jailed for DDoS" and for their "records" to be cleared.
Federal law prohibits anyone from intentionally impairing "protected computers," including those used by financial institutions and the U.S. government.
The petition comes amid a series of denial of service attacks that have swamped the websites of least 12 banks worldwide since September and prevented customers from accessing their accounts. Some experts say the attacks are the work of the Iranian government, which has denied responsibility.
Though some reports have identified Anonymous as the petition’s sponsor, the appeal itself is signed by "Dylan K." from Eagle, Wis.
As of Thursday evening the petition had garnered roughly 1,400 signatures. Supporters will need roughly 23,600 more signatures by Feb. 6 to reach the 25,000 threshold that triggers an official review.