Version 5 (modified by Daniel Kahn Gillmor, 8 years ago) (diff)


Proposed statement

In an attack on our infrastructure, our movement and the democratic Internet, the FBI seized a server yesterday from one of our cabinets a colocation facility. The server is owned by our sister organization, Riseup, and is managed by ECN, a progressive provider in Italy. While the seizure of any equipment is pernicious and damaging, the pointlessness of this seizure suggests an inclination toward extrajudicial punishment and an attempted crackdown on the very possibility of anonymous speech online.

The FBI is investigating bomb threats being made to facilities and people at the University of Pittsburgh and appears to believe that one of the servers used to transmit these threats was an anonymous e-mail server operated by ECN. Anonymous remailers have no logs or traces of who used them, so the FBI will not get any useful information from the stolen machine.

Seizing this machine serves no useful purpose in tracking down or stopping the bomb threats, but it has many serious negative implications. Anonymous e-mail is an important part of the Internet. One of the benefits of Internet technology is the ability to communicate world-wide: communication is fundamental to the struggles of the world's people and the continued existence of the human race. In a period in which our society has seen massive losses of privacy -- in which just about everything we do on-line can be tracked, logged, studied and used for all kinds of purposes -- anonymous e-mail (and other anonymous communication tools) provide shade from the intrusive searchlights of ubiquitous surveillance.

Insiders who reveal government and military malfeasance, whistleblowers, critics within institutions, organizers who fear police repression, and others involved in liberatory struggle can and do use anonymous e-mail. Anonymous e-mail is one of the critical tools of the democracy movement unfolding worldwide (including the Middle East, for example). Without anonymous communications, such movements would have had even greater difficulty organizing and would face greater risks and repression. Without anonymous communications, our already-constrained knowledge of what government and corporations actually do in our name and against our interests would be even more limited. Without anonymous communications, the Internet becomes little more than a caricature of its potential as a tool for building a just global society. When authorities forcibly remove a computer from an anonymous communications network, they weaken that network and set a precedent for attack on anonymity in general. If we lose anonymous email, we effectively lose the Internet as a tool for organizing and change.

The use of anonymous communications for bomb threats is horrible. We at MF/PL have never condoned threats of violence or the use of Internet technology to harm people. Such use runs counter to our vision of the reason the Internet exists and its proper use. We are deeply saddened by the pain caused so many people by these sociopathic activities.

But we cannot stop malicious anonymous e-mail without also destroying the ability to use anonymous e-mail for beneficial purposes. And the bomb threats continue to arrive at U. of Pitt after this outrageous seizure. There is no positive outcome to this action by the FBI. We will defend our members' privacy and their data. We will also aggressively seek the return of the computer the FBI took from us and other legal remedies against those who collaborated in the violation of our rights. And we remain committed to defending the use and protection of anonymous communication world-wide, and to the advancement of the internet as a tool for liberatory change.