Indymedia Server Seizure
Coverage of the Police seizure of strummer.indymedia.org.uk - a UK Indymedia server which was colocated in Manchester.
Indymedia UK (IMC-UK) is a network of activists who provide an open publishing platform. We are part of the wider Indymedia Network that started in Seattle during the protests against the WTO in November 1999, and the UK site was one of the first to join the network in early 2000. In common with all Indymedia Centres (IMCs) around the world, as designated in the (draft) Principles of Unity, IMC-UK does not log IP addresses - as detailed on the security page. Moreover, following on from previous requests by governmental authorities for logs, IMC-UK and many other Indymedia sites (e.g. the global website, www.indymedia.org) do not retain any logs related to the website. These facts are documented on our open mailing lists and on the open IMC documentation site, docs.indymedia.org. (here for example).
In the rest of this article, we provide some advice on how to improve the measures you take when publishing on the website if you want to do so anonymously. We also outline some legal procedures that could potentially be used to attack Indymedia and the right to free expression, as well as describing some of the technical points in more detail.
This Monday (9 February 2009), Kent Police arrested a man in Sheffield under the Serious Crime Act 2007 in relation to the recent Indymedia server seizure. His home was raided, all computer equipment and related papers taken. He was released after eight hours. The person had neither technical, administrative nor editorial access to the Indymedia UK website. He was only associated to the project by hosting its server.
The arrest took place under Section 44-46 of the Serious Crime Act, which was passed into law on 1st October 2008 to combat serious international crime like drug trafficking, prostitution, money laundering and armed robbery. Sections 44-46 refer to “encouraging or assisting offences”.
Kent police claim that they are after the IP address of the poster of two anonymous comments to a report about a recent animal liberation court case, which included personal details of the Judge. The IP address of the poster is not stored as Indymedia does not log IP addresses. This was acknowledged by British Transport Police in 2005, after the Bristol IMC server seizure.
For the police to arrest the person who happened to sign the contract for server hosting, is sheer intimidation, in light of Indymedia’s openly stated policy of no IP logging.
With the implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive in March 2009, the UK government attempts to turn every internet service provider in the country into part of the law enforcement apparatus. This legislation will provide a legal basis to track, intimidate, harass, and arrest people who are doing valuable and necessary work for social change, for example as peace activists, campaigners for economic and social justice or against police brutality.
The present intimidation of the open publishing alternative news platform Indymedia will have serious implications for anyone running a server in the UK which allows user contributions – blogs, social networking sites, wikis. This is an attempt to close down sites that respect the privacy of their contributors, pure and simple.
On 22 January 2009 an Indymedia server was seized by the Police in Manchester. This was related to postings about the recent Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) trial.
Kent Police had e-mailed imc-uk-contact in the morning requesting that personal information about the Judge from the recent SHAC trial in the UK be removed from the site. However this information had already been quickly removed in line with IMC UK policy. The e-mail also requested information relating to the poster be retained. Indymedia as an open posting news service does not log such information about its sources.
The machine was handed to the Police by the management of UK Grid, a Manchester based colocation facility, without a warrant being shown. It is believed that a warrant for this one server may exist and have been issued by a Chief Inspector. As the server was a mirror of the site, it can be concluded that the validity of the seizure wasn't checked, and the police attacked Indymedia infrastructure in the UK.
Other sites that have been affected as a result of this seizure include London Indymedia, the global Indymedia documentation project server, la Soja Mata – an anti-GM soya campaign focusing on South American development, Transition Sheffield and a Canadian campaign against the 2010 olympics.