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<nettime> riseup server seized
nettime's_roving_reporter on Fri, 20 Apr 2012 05:12:19 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> riseup server seized


Server Seizure, April 2012

   April 18th, 2012, Riseup had a server seized by the US Federal
   Authorities. This is our press release.


   FBI seizes server providing anonymous remailer and many other services
   from colocation facility.


     * Riseup Networks, Devin Theriot-Orr, 206-708-8740, sunbird {AT} riseup.net
     * May First/People Link, Jamie McClelland, 917-509-5734, jm {AT} mayfirst.org
     * ECN: Isole Nella Rete, inr {AT} riseup.net

Attack on Anonymous Speech[18]

   On Wednesday, April 18, at approximately 16:00 Eastern Time, U.S.
   Federal authorities removed a server from a colocation facility shared
   by Riseup Networks and May First/People Link in New York City. The
   seized server was operated by the European Counter Network ("ECN"), the
   oldest independent internet service provider in Europe, who, among many
   other things, provided an anonymous remailer service, Mixmaster, that
   was the target of an FBI investigation into the bomb threats against
   the University of Pittsburgh.

   "The company running the facility has confirmed that the server was
   removed in conjunction with a search warrant issued by the FBI," said
   May First/People Link director Jamie McClelland. "The server seizure is
   not only an attack against us, but an attack against all users of the
   Internet who depend on anonymous communication."

   Disrupted in this seizure were academics, artists, historians, feminist
   groups, gay rights groups, community centers, documentation and
   software archives and free speech groups. The server included the
   mailing list "cyber rights" (the oldest discussion list in Italy to
   discuss this topic), a Mexican migrant solidarity group, and other
   groups working to support indigenous groups and workers in Latin
   America, the Caribbean and Africa. In total, over 300 email accounts,
   between 50-80 email lists, and several other websites have been taken
   off the Internet by this action. None are alleged to be involved in the
   anonymous bomb threats.

   "The FBI is using a sledgehammer approach, shutting down service to
   hundreds of users due to the actions of one anonymous person," said
   Devin Theriot-Orr, a spokesperson for Riseup. "This is particularly
   misguided because there is unlikely to be any information on the server
   regarding the source of the threatening emails."

   "We sympathize with the University of Pittsburgh community who have had
   to deal with this frightening disruption for weeks. We oppose such
   threatening actions. However, taking this server won't stop these bomb
   threats. The only effect it has is to also disrupt e-mail and websites
   for thousands of unrelated people," continues Mr. Theriot-Orr.
   "Furthermore, the network of anonymous remailers that exists is not
   harmed by taking this machine. So we cannot help but wonder why such
   drastic action was taken when authorities knew that the server
   contained no useful information that would help in their

   The FBI purportedly seized the server because it was hosting an
   anonymous remailer called Mixmaster. Anonymous remailers are used to
   send email anonymously, or pseudonymously. Like other anonymizing
   services such as the Tor network, these remailers are widely used to
   protect the identity of human rights activists who place themselves and
   their families in grave danger by reporting information about abuses.
   Remailers are also important for corporate whistle blowers, democracy
   activists working under repressive regimes, and others to communicate
   vital information that would otherwise go un-reported.

   The Mixmaster software is specifically designed to make it impossible
   for anyone to trace the emails. The system does not record logs of
   connections, details of who sent messages, or how they were routed.
   This is because the Mixmaster network is specifically designed to
   resist censorship, and support privacy and anonymity. Unfortunately,
   some people misuse the network. However, compared to the rate of
   legitimate use, the abuse rate is very low. There is therefore no
   legitimate purpose for the FBI to seize this server because they will
   not be able to obtain any information about the sender. This is plainly
   extra-judicial punishment and an attack on free speech and anonymity on
   the internet and serves as a chilling effect on others providers of
   anonymous remailers or other anonymous services.

   In absence of any other leads, the FBI needs to show that they are
   making progress in this case, and this has meant seizing a server so
   they can proudly demonstrate they are taking some action. But what this
   incident shows is they are grasping at straws and are willing to
   destroy innocent bystanders for the sake of protecting their careers.

About the organizations involved[19]

   MayFirst/People Link ([20]mayfirst.org) is a politically-progressive
   member-run and controlled organization that redefines the concept of
   "Internet Service Provider" in a collective and collaborative way. May
   First/People Link's members are organizers and activists who elect a
   Leadership Committee to direct the organization. Like a coop, members
   pay dues, buy equipment and then share that equipment for websites,
   email, email lists, and other Internet purposes.

   Riseup Networks ([21]riseup.net) provides online communication tools
   for people and groups working on liberatory social change. Riseup
   creates democratic alternatives and practices self-determination by
   controlling our own secure means of communications.

   ECN (European Counter Network - [22]ecn.org) is the oldest independent
   service provider in Europe providing free email accounts, mailing
   lists, and websites to organizations, activists, and movements that are
   involved in human rights, freedom of speech and information in Italy
   and Europe. ECN is anti-fascist and works towards a just and equal
   society. Years ago, before sites like Youtube and Vimeo existed, ECN
   created a platform called NGV where people could upload and share
   independent video of human rights violations. Nowadays ECN works
   primarily with anti-fascist and anti-Nazi movements in all of Europe,
   providing space and resources to political and social centers.

Questions / further reading[23]

   Q: Doesn't Mixmaster/anonymous remailers enable criminals to do bad

   A: Criminals can already do bad things. Since they're willing to break
   laws, they already have lots of options available that provide better
   privacy than mixmaster provides. They can steal cell phones, use them,
   and throw them in a ditch; they can crack into computers in Korea or
   Brazil and use them to launch abusive activities; they can use spyware,
   viruses, and other techniques to take control of literally millions of
   Windows machines around the world.

   Mixmaster aims to provide protection for ordinary people who want to
   follow the law. Only criminals have privacy right now, and we need to
   fix that.

   Some advocates of anonymity explain that it's just a tradeoff --
   accepting the bad uses for the good ones -- but there's more to it than
   that. Criminals and other bad people have the motivation to learn how
   to get good anonymity, and many have the motivation to pay well to
   achieve it. Being able to steal and reuse the identities of innocent
   victims (identify theft) makes it even easier. Normal people, on the
   other hand, don't have the time or money to spend figuring out how to
   get privacy online. This is the worst of all possible worlds.

   So yes, criminals could in theory use mixmaster, but they already have
   better options, and it seems unlikely that taking mixmaster away from
   the world will stop them from doing bad things. At the same time,
   mixmaster and other privacy measures can fight identity theft, physical
   crimes like stalking, and so on. Please see the [24]tor FAQ on abuse
   for more information.

   Q: How does Mixmaster / Anonymous remailers work?

   A: Anonymous remailers work by connecting to other anonymous remailers
   in a chain, and every one in that chain removes the mail header
   information making it impossible to find the real sender. [25]The Tor
   project maintains a list of typical users of this and other anonymity
   systems, and the [26]Mixmaster home page

   This site is run by riseup.net, your friendly autonomous tech
   collective since 1999.


  17. https://help.riseup.net/en/seizure-2012-april#contacts
  18. https://help.riseup.net/en/seizure-2012-april#attack-on-anonymous-speech
  19. https://help.riseup.net/en/seizure-2012-april#about-the-organizations-involved
  20. https://mayfirst.org/
  21. https://riseup.net/
  22. https://ecn.org/
  23. https://help.riseup.net/en/seizure-2012-april#questions-further-reading
  24. https://www.torproject.org/docs/faq-abuse.html
  25. https://www.torproject.org/about/torusers.html.en
  26. http://mixmaster.sourceforge.net/

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