The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) and its members network strongly denounce recent actions by US Federal Authorities that threaten a democratic internet, silencing hundreds of users around the world for the misuse of anonymous internet services by one person. This week, three politically-progressive internet service providers and hundreds of their users were attacked by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for supporting the use of the internet by anonymous users.
From their joint press release:
“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, a statement by the service provider reads. 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.”
At this time in history when the internet is under increased surveillance and control by repressive governments around the world, the seizure of email servers in New York by FBI agents sends out a clear signal that democratic governments are ready to arbitrarily circumvent the rule of law.
Jamie McClelland, director of May First/People Link said, “We cannot stop malicious anonymous e-mail without also destroying the ability to use anonymous e-mail for beneficial purposes. According to the news, the bomb threats continue to arrive at University of Pittsburgh after this outrageous seizure. There is no positive outcome to this action by the FBI.”
The FBI has effectively shut down service to hundreds of users and their harsh actions can only be interpreted as threatening to anonymous use of the internet. “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, the ISP statement continues. 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.”
“Such heavy-handed interventions by governments are a violation of US communication law and internet rights, as defined by the Internet Rights Charter, and we call on government leaders to stop these attacks on civil society and internet users’ rights,” stressed APC executive director, Anriette Esterhuysen.
We stand with May First/People Link, Riseup, and the European Counter Network against these attacks on users of the internet who depend on anonymous communication.