US authorities issued a court order on October 7 to Rackspace to physically remove Global Indymedia servers in the US and UK. The agency requesting the seizure was the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Rackspace is a web hosting provider with offices in the US and UK which hosts Indymedia sites all around the world. The order was so short term that Rackspace had no time to defend itself and complied without first notifying Indymedia and handed over their servers both in the US and the UK. This has affected approximately 20 Indymedia sites around the world. At the same time another server was taken down at Rackspace which provided streaming radio to various radio stations.
The exact reasons for the confiscation are unknown as the subpoena was issued to Rackspace and not to Indymedia, and Indymedia has not been provided with any information. Rackspace has stated that “they cannot provide Indymedia with any information regarding the order.” There is precedent for this in the past where ISPs have received gag orders preventing them from updating the concerned parties on what is happening. It is scandalous that a server outside US jurisdiction can be seized by US authorities. Furthermore, Indymedia is responsible for the content of its websites, not Rackspace, and as result Indymedia has a right to know why its hardware has been confiscated. In taking this kind of action against service providers, the FBI avoids having to inform Indymedia what alleged crimes or breaches they have committed. Thus, Indymedia cannot even defend itself. The last few months have seen numerous attacks on independent media by the US Federal Government. In August the Secret Service used a subpoena in an attempt to disrupt the NYC Indy Media Center before the Republican National Convention by trying to get IP logs from an ISP in the US and the Netherlands. Last month the FCC shut down community radio stations around the US.
Two weeks ago the FBI requested that Indymedia take down a post on the Nantes IMC that apparently had photos of undercover Swiss police, who had been photographing protestors. IMC volunteers in Seattle were visited by the FBI on the same issue. When asked what the US government was doing requesting the removal of information from a French-run website that contained information about Swiss police actions, the FBI stated that this was a “courtesy” to the Swiss government. The FBI agents stated that no laws had been broken, and no crimes had been committed. However, because no identifying information was posted on the website in question, it was unclear what actions the FBI was requesting. If no laws have been broken and no crime committed then why is the FBI making such requests?
Continuing their attacks on free speech and independent media today’s actions of the US authorities have shut down IMCs around the world. The list of affected local media collectives includes Ambazonia, Uruguay, Andorra, Poland, Western Massachusetts, Nice, Nantes, Lilles, Marseille (all France), Euskal Herria (Basque Country), Liege, East and West Vlaanderen, Antwerpen (all Belgium), Belgrade, Portugal, Prague, Galiza, Italy, Brazil, UK, part of the Germany site, and the global Indymedia Radio site.Other attacks have taken place on independent news agencies – the Iraqi interim government has banned Al-Jazeera from broadcasting in the country. This followed numerous attempts on the part of the US government to ban the news agency in the Middle East during the build up to war. These types of attacks on independent media and other attempts at censoring the internet will not work. The information believed to be the cause behind the seizure of Indymedia’s hardware has now been posted all across the internet on a host of sites.
The UK Indymedia site has stated that “It is ironic that this happens now, just days before Indymedia UK is due to participate in the European Forum on Communications Rights being held alongside the European Social Forum and several other days of discussions about electronic civil liberties and community media.”
This seizure of Indymedia’s hardware is a direct attack on civil liberties, the right to free speech, and a not-so-subtle attempt at internet censorship.
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