Center for Media Justice home of the Media Action Grassroots Network

Why We All Need to Care about the Accelerated Attack on our Internet Free Speech, Privacy and Security…It’s a Serious Civil Rights Issue

Last week I was sitting at our Media Action Grassroots (MAG-Net) Annual Retreat and Meeting when I learned about the FBI’s seizure of an Internet Server shared by Riseup Networks and May First/People Link (MFPL) in New York City that had just happened on April 18th. Tomorrow, Wednesday April 25th, MAG-Net will be hosting a special Digital Dialogue and Webinar featuring activists from MFPL (a MAG-Net member) who will give a briefing on this recent attack on our Internet free speech, privacy and security. They will also present some alternatives for protecting ourselves online as well as talk about the growing open source culture movement.  I guarantee you don’t want to miss this.

The seized server was operated by the European Counter Network (“ECN”), the oldest independent Internet

service provider in Europe.  ECN provided an anonymous remailer service, Mixmaster, that was the target of an FBI investigation into bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh.  In a formal statement May First/People Link director Jamie McClelland writes “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.”

According to MFPL, the seized 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 workers in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa.  Overall, over 300 email accounts, between 50-80 email lists and related websites have been taken off the Internet by this FBI seizure.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you see a glaringly obvious pattern here.  In the last several months, it seems like the ongoing attack to strip Internet users of our rights to privacy and security online has accelerated.  In the last several months, companies have increased their online behavioral tracking. In March, Google launched its new privacy policy, that would allow them to consolidate users’ data across all different platforms and services, claiming that it will improve the Internet user’s experience. Last September, Facebook made a significant change to its privacy policy wiping out the word “privacy” and rebranding it as a “data use” policy. These changes give Facebook more power to track billions of users on the web.

Finally, this week, Electronic Frontier Foundation called for week of action against CISPA, the cybersecurity bill moving quickly through the House that allow companies like Google, Facebook, and AT&T to eavesdrop on our communication correspondence and give sensitive user data to the government without a court order.

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In addition, on May 3rd – Consumers Union will be hosting an event “Facebook and Your Privacy: What every Consumer Should Know” on Thursday, May 3rd from 6-8:45pm at New York University in New York City. The panel will include various digital rights advocates like Jeff Chester of Center for Digital Democracy and Jeff Fox of Consumer Reports and Alfredo Lopez, a long time digital rights and Internet activist and founder of May First/People Link.  If you are interested in attending, please email [email protected] for more info.

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