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[ NNSquad ] Fwd: Riseup server seized by FBI / anonymous speech, etc.

To: Lauren Weinstein <lauren@vortex.com>


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@riseup.net
    * May First/People Link, Jamie McClelland, 917-509-5734, jm@mayfirst.org
    * ECN: Isole Nella Rete, inr@riseup.net

Attack on Anonymous Speech[18]ś

  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]ś

  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]ś

  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
 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/

 -------- END FORWARDED MESSAGE --------

Lauren Weinstein (lauren@vortex.com): http://www.vortex.com/lauren 
Co-Founder: People For Internet Responsibility: http://www.pfir.org 
 - Data Wisdom Explorers League: http://www.dwel.org
 - Network Neutrality Squad: http://www.nnsquad.org 
 - Global Coalition for Transparent Internet Performance: http://www.gctip.org
 - PRIVACY Forum: http://www.vortex.com 
Member: ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy
Lauren's Blog: http://lauren.vortex.com
Google+: http://vortex.com/g+lauren / Twitter: http://vortex.com/t-lauren 
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800 / Skype: vortex.com
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