Patrice Riemens on Thu, 2 Jul 1998 08:38:02 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> : article in 'Freedom' (London)

(This article will appear in the next issue of 'Freedom', an activists


Weekend raid on ecn server, Italy.

At 10.30 am, Saturday 27th June, police in Bologna, North Italy, 
raided the premises of the European Counter-Information Network, 
seizing their computer which was hosting internet material for 
Freedom Press.

Everyone knows that groups like ourselves - publishing material which 
challenges established institutions - run the risk of being silenced 
by those we criticise. There is nothing new in this. But what is new, 
and instructive, is how such gagging techniques are to be applied to 
the internet.

People who have access to the internet can read Freedom Press 
material held on various computers around the world. We have 
information which is hosted for us by people in Holland, Canada and, 
up until the 27th June, Italy.

The European Counter-Information Network (also known by the name of 
the collective which maintains the site - Islands in the Net) is, of 
course, a non-profit making organisation whose main offence would 
seem to be a belief in freedom of expression. Those who visit their 
site are faced with a wide choice of alternative information in a 
variety of languages not only coming from Italy but from all around 
the world.

More than 40 of the Italian Social Centres (we have reported on 
before in Freedom) use the service along with labour organisations 
like the Spanish CNT and the Italian USI. Alternative radio stations 
such as Onda d'Urto, Radio Blackout and Radio Sherwood use space on 
the server alongside paper publications like Freedom Press, Bandiera 
Rossa from Milan and various digital publications like .zip. Music 
bands also have their pages which bring in many of the thousands of 
people who use the ecn server on a daily basis: visiting the web site 
or using the discussion forums known as mailing lists. These include 
a huge variety of subjects ranging from news about developments in 
Chiapas to citizens rights in a digital age and the only discussion 
list about gay rights in Italy.

All this came to a sudden end on Saturday when the State Prosecutor 
for Vicenza - Paoli Pecori - authorised the seizure by the police of 
the computer which held this information. Thus, in the words of one 
member of the collective, 'from now on (and who knows for how long?) 
the server will be down and... the construction of a strong 
solidarity network among several self-organised collectives (will be 


The precise reason why the server has been seized remains unclear. 
Ostensibly it goes back to a message sent to one of the mailing lists 
which denounced a Turkish travel agency - Turban Italia Sri whose 
headquarters is in Milan - by linking them to the financial interests 
of the former Turkish premier Tansu C,iller and which called on 
people to boycott the agency in solidarity with the Kurdish people.

What makes the situation strange is that the material in question had 
already been published on a flier and was in the public domain. In 
this instance the information was only being reproduced. Even 
stranger, perhaps, is that the ecn collective should be held 
responsible for the contents of a document they had not been involved 
in producing and, no longer strange but rather sinister, that all the 
many groups we have listed should be silenced. It's a bit as though 
the BBC (TV, radio and paper publications) were shut down without 
warning because a DJ on Radio One had read out a message from a 
listener because it contained questionnable material. All this would 
be funny if it weren't true.

The whole question of content control on the internet is a worldwide 
question now like the internet itself. Here in the UK the government 
has started the ball rolling officially with talk about copyright and 
unofficially it has begun in the press with fear campaigns about 
child pornography and bomb making recipes. The hidden agenda is just 
that: hidden. It comes out into the open when the kind of think we 
are seeing in Italy today will be in our own backyard tomorrow.

Fortunately, resistance is a possibility. The ecn server will not be 
down for long and already moves are being made to mirror (duplicate) 
parts of the site elsewhere. This kind of move has precedents and 
sometimes when the authorities go for the little folk (remember 
McDonalds?) it can backfire. Here however we are dealing with state 
censorship. A different beast and possibly more vicious than a 


'68 retro

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