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Censorship The Media Your Rights Online

Indymedia Server Seized By UK Police, Again 528

Posted by timothy
from the keep-calm-and-carry-on dept.
timbrown writes with word that "On 22 January 2009, Kent Police seized an Indymedia server hosted by Manchester-based colocation facility UK Grid and run by the alternative news platform Indymedia UK. The server was taken in relation to comments on an article regarding the convictions in the recent Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) trial. Seven activists were sentenced to a total of 50 years in prison." The complete story is worth reading; timbrown continues: "I'm posting this as a concerned UK administrator who hosts a number of sites. The message appears to be clear: the UK establishment does not want political content, legitimate or otherwise, hosted from these shores. The message has been noted, however free speech must be supported even where it may not be agreeable."
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Indymedia Server Seized By UK Police, Again

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  • so much for (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ionix5891 (1228718) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:36AM (#26605385)

    freedom of speech..

    btw I run a site along the lines and I have an interesting setup, the database server is in one country and the web frontend is in another with secure tunnel between so if someone does a traceroute to the site and then goes datacenter and pulls the server out of rack all they get is a proxy, its far from perfect but at least the database is safe

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Thank. You. For. That. Information. Citizen. Closing. All. Encrypted. Tunnels. From. UK. To. Rest. Of. World. Now...

      ENJOY YOUR LIBERTY.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Which just leaves the single point of failure. The domain name.
      Once the authorities yank that, the distributed server network behind it goes away...at least for a while.

    • I doubt freedom of speech is in the treaty. I also doubt that Indymedia [google.com.au] are incompetent when it comes to keeping their 'information' safe and accessible.
    • by afc_wimbledon (1052878) on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:05AM (#26605523)
      From the details available, it appears this may relate to information that could be used to threaten the judge in the SHAC trial, the trial of some pretty unpleasant and violent people http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7837064.stm [bbc.co.uk].
      • by plasmacutter (901737) on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:17AM (#26605561)

        From the details available, it appears this may relate to information that could be used to threaten the judge in the SHAC trial, the trial of some pretty unpleasant and violent people http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7837064.stm [bbc.co.uk].

        Information does not equate to action.

        There is "information" in local us libraries which would show you how to assemble a bomb a-la oklahoma city. I suppose we should seize and burn all books in the local libraries and send the librarians and library officials to prison for 50 years.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:38AM (#26605633)

          Information like that - information about our world and cultures etc. thats all fine and free. Personal info on the other hand, address, phone number, names of children and family pets etc. Thats sorta stuff is no ones business but your own.

          The action the police took here was wrong - but that by no means justifies the actions of the violent individuals who would look to bypass the legal process via threats and intimidation.

          • by xappax (876447) on Monday January 26, 2009 @10:26AM (#26607507)
            Maybe that's why UK Indymedia quickly deleted the personal information that was posted - before the police were even aware of it.

            The reason the server was seized is because Indymedia refuses to surveil its contributors to the degree the cops would like. And apparently that makes any of their hardware fair game.
        • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:53AM (#26605685) Homepage

          Information does not equate to action.

          There's a bit of a difference between "this is how you make a bomb", and "This is where he lives, let's get him".

          Please do try to bear in mind that the SHAC "activists" are violent criminals, who have launched physical attacks on people involved in animal testing. Whether you believe animal testing is right or wrong, that is not the way to go about protesting it.

          The SHAC protesters broke the law, and are now - rightly - in jail. The person who posted the judge's personal information and a death threat against him also broke the law.

          If a poster on a forum posted information on where to find Barack Obama, and a death threat, would you expect the server that hosted that forum to be seized?

          • by bug1 (96678) on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:18AM (#26605779)

            There's a bit of a difference between "this is how you make a bomb", and "This is where he lives, let's get him".

            So... did they say "This is where he lives, let's get him" ?

            Nothing in the post or article mentions a death threat... if the person made a death threat then that is a completely seperate issue, or do you think the medium that the threat was made through is somehow relevant.

            If he sent a death threat in the post would you expect all the postal trucks to be impounded ?

            Everyone thinks they are objective, nobody is.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by coastwalker (307620)

              I hope the police acted within the law. But I have every sympathy for their action. The court case in question was about a group of people who harassed individuals over a period of many years in violent and intimidating ways. There was every possibility that the threats would spill over into death or injury at any time.

              The perpetrators got up to 8 years in jail for these activities so I am not at all surprised that the police have taken a keen interest in the publication of the judges address on an undergro

          • I guess the death threat would be enough. If people have access to any kind of information source (and if they don't, they couldn't get your threat either), they know pretty much where to find Obama currently.

            • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:53AM (#26605961) Journal

              So if you're the police and you want to seize some organization's computers and / or logs, just post a death threat on their site. I'm not saying that's what happened in this instance, just pointing out a vulnerability. In the UK, it's been established that the police have had members go undercover in protest movements to encourage violence and act extreme in order to justify a crack down. There was a case late last year when a reputable reporter recognized a police officer she had talked to in amongst the protestors at an anti-war demonstration trying to incite people to breach police lines and physically harass officers. Taking such methods online is a natural step.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            The judge's information was posted, then removed by the editors shortly after as per indymedia's policy. The police wanted logs so as to track down who posted it. Indymedia explicitly does not keep logs to protect whistleblowers. So the police seize the server. Yes, this was designed with the possibility of servers being seized in mind. That still doesn't make it a good thing.

          • by Lloyd_Bryant (73136) on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:41AM (#26605911)

            If a poster on a forum posted information on where to find Barack Obama, and a death threat, would you expect the server that hosted that forum to be seized?

            Hardly. I would expect a judicial order requiring the post to be removed, and then that the Secret Service would monitor that service to see if any further posts were made by that individual. By seizing the server (and shutting down the service), the police blocked a potential source of further leads as to the identity of the person. In short, a panic reaction, rather than a reasoned reaction.

            The SHAC protesters broke the law, and are now - rightly - in jail. The person who posted the judge's personal information and a death threat against him also broke the law.

            The SHAC protesters are in jail. The poster will be in jail, if they can find him/her. Fine. Now explain to me what law the server owners/operators broke, that resulting in their server (and service) being "thrown in jail".

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Mascot (120795)

              By seizing the server (and shutting down the service)

              The service wasn't shut down. It was a mirror and its removal only caused some temporary issues (according to TFA).

              the police blocked a potential source of further leads as to the identity of the person. In short, a panic reaction, rather than a reasoned reaction.

              Yes, and no. It depends on your point of view.

              If they felt the server might contain data relevant to the investigation, and that the hosters were sympathetic to the poster and might try to expunge that data, then quick seizure might be a valid attempt to preserve evidence.

              I do agree with you, considering the police knew about their no logging policy. They would have been much better served by g

          • by xaxa (988988) on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:55AM (#26605969)

            If a poster on a forum posted information on where to find Barack Obama, and a death threat, would you expect the server that hosted that forum to be seized?

            I bet if the post had been made on timesonline.co.uk (The Times' website) it wouldn't be seized.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sqldr (838964)
          Information does not equate to action

          It does equate to evidence though. The seizure wasn't to censure the information, it was to study it for the process of finding who sent the death threats. That's the opposite of censorship, that's putting the information in the hands of the people who find it useful. Feel free to take a copy first.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Information does not equate to action.

          It does with the SHAC loonies. They've bombed people, harrassed people who had the most tenuous of links (like the cleaner of a manager of a company that supplied Huntingdon Life Sciences) and carried out a campaign of harassment, violence and intimidation that many terrorist organisations would've been proud of.

      • by digitig (1056110) on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:43AM (#26605643)
        Also from the details available, they seem to have quite correctly pulled that information as soon as they spotted it, before the police asked them to, and the problem was that the police demanded information that they didn't have. So what were they supposed to do?
      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Monday January 26, 2009 @06:59AM (#26605987) Journal

        >>>it appears this may relate to information that could be used to threaten the judge in the SHAC trial, the trial of some pretty unpleasant and violent people

        This organization is ALSO unpleasant and violent, but the U.S. still allows its website to exist: http://www.kkk.bz/ [www.kkk.bz] http://www.kkk.com/ [kkk.com] - "Is the election of Obama shocking to us? Not at all! ...The president elect now stands as a symbol to our people throughout this nation that change is indeed coming. What will it mean for those who are being disenfranchised from the very nation purchased by the blood of their forefathers? It could mean an awakening of our spirit and blood. Every time the television shows an image of Obama it will be a reminder that our people have lost power in this country. ...The betrayal will stare them in the face each time they watch the news and see little black children playing in the rose garden."

        Disgusting.

        But every person has the right to exercise their OWN mouth and offer-up their opinions, no matter how offensive. We should punish those individuals who commit violence, but the non-violent persons should remain free. "No man has a right to harm another. And that is all that the government should restrain him." - Founder of the Democratic Party, Thomas Jefferson

    • Please mod this up (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Please mod this up:

      You could always make another internet [anonet.org] to get away from the bullshit on the current one.
  • by onion2k (203094) * on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:37AM (#26605395) Homepage

    This bugs me. Freedom of the press is a vital tennet of our society, and it needs to be protected vigourously by everyone both inside the media and out. Without it we would have no way to stand up to the sort of tyranny that is all too common in countries where people aren't free.

    Which is why I think Indymedia should shut the hell up in this case.

    What does this have to do with freedom of the press? The name, address and other details of a judge were posted on an Indymedia site and mirrored to this server. That's not journalism. Trying to claim that the police investigating it is an infringement of the free press just undermines the real press and makes otherwise rational people wonder if freedom of the press is really important after all.

    Other people's private personal information is not "political content".

    • by N1AK (864906) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:44AM (#26605427) Homepage
      I couldn't agree more with parent posters statement. It's strange how the same people who wildly rage about the RIAA's Jon Doe cases and their privacy implications, often think that giving out peoples personal details with no intent other than harassment is a god given right.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        the information have been removed by imc-uk. this would be clear if you would even read the article... so no need for telling something about private data etc.

      • by bug1 (96678)

        If personal information was obtained legally, that what law forbids them from sharing such information (in the press or otherwise) ?

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by KDR_11k (778916)

          EU data protection laws. Personal information can't just be copied freely.

        • The data protection act comes to mind, they are only use the information for the propose it was obtained, if instance if you obtain someones address to send them personal correspondents, you can't then go around and sell it to junk mailer, or for that matter give it to a lynch mob.

    • In the UK I have been seeing how a 1984 situation is being established:

      1) Speed cameras to the wahzoo....
      2) Camera's to watch people to the wahzoo...
      3) Rights being taken away and people sent to jail on issues that would otherwise seem "ludicrous.."

      It has been proven that the cameras do squat to stop crime. Yet there they are and more are coming. Why? It is an issue of the establishment in the UK wanting to control the people. 1984!

      The result of Indymedia and the posters is a direct reaction of the restrict

    • by netzhappen (1461635) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:51AM (#26605469)
      You have read that indymedia removed the personal data (as a part of their privacy policy) _BEFORE_ the police took their server? So there was no need to seizure. And they KNOW that no IPs are logged and that this was just a mirror with no usefull data on it. So yes, freedom of press was violated as the cops took a needed tool (server) and damaged the infrastructure of indymedia.
      • by Gordonjcp (186804)

        And they KNOW that no IPs are logged

        They don't *know* that no IPs are logged. They were *told* that no IPs are logged. Would you believe what you were told? I wouldn't. I'd want to check for myself. That way I could write in my report that "Indymedia said that no IPs were logged. I checked the server, and there were no IPs logged." Keeps everyone right, doesn't it?

        • by abigsmurf (919188)

          I hope you're not suggesting that sometimes people may lie to the police!

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Opportunist (166417)

          Umm... they seized the servers before, do they think Indymedia changed their policy by now?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by netzhappen (1461635)
          They know from previous seizures. But that is just a sidenote. They knew it was a mirror and not the publishing server, so what did they tried to gain form taking a simple and plain mirror. It doesn't make sense and shows either a lack of understanding technical issues or they just wanted to attack or annoy indymedia. But again, all this might be explained with just plain misunderstanding, so lets speak about that no warrant was shown to the colo maintainer (if there is just a warrat at all, who knows nowa
    • by bone_idol (782109) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:56AM (#26605487)

      If you read the article you'd have seen that the personal details were removed by an Indymedia moderator as soon as they were aware of them.

      Indymedia UK privacy policy does not condone publishing personal details

      http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/static/privacy.html#Personal_Information [indymedia.org.uk]

      Indymedias policy of not logging IP addresses is well known to the Police.

      Its difficult to see what reason they could have for pulling this machine, other than low level harrasssment.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:03AM (#26605515)

      Indymedia, in the UK or elsewhere, is not just a collection of private adresses. An open publishing platform, it is mostly used by grassroots movements, individuals and smaller NGOs, reporting about demonstrations, actions and protests from the perspective of those involved. It also contains all sorts of rants, sometimes political, sometimes not, sometimes clever, sometimes hard to understand. Most Indymedia collectives are trying to get posters to stick to reports about political practice. But having the open publishing ethos at the heart of the project, other types of posting are often left on the newswire. However, the posting of details about third parties is discouraged and, like in this case, removed.
      Indymedia is not the type of journalism we know from the mass media. The content is produced by a wide range of people. Some are used to the framework of corporate journalism (which includes, in the best case, professional standards of quality journalism, but also the constraints of a commercial project). Others are DIY journalists, people who are learning by doing and creating their own standards. Because contributors to indymedia don't need to worry about whether a story will sell or not, they can cover issues that would otherwise go completely unnoticed. In this way, Indymedia fullfills an important function for a society, no?

      ps sorry for posting as coward, don't usually post to slashdot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Assuming that indymedia were uncooperative with the investigation, I have to concur completely.

      SHAC, PETA, and SPEAK are all basically different wings of the ALF. None of these groups are 'pro animal rights' and are all just anti science. I get annoyed as the next person when the WI (or some other harmless group) gets put on the list of terror organisations, but these people are sick barsteds hell bent on sending us back to the dark ages and sacrificing (literally) scientists who conduct vital research on

    • Other people's private personal information is not "political content".

      Below is a story from the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times:

      ST. PETERSBURG -- A 54-year-old man was struck and killed by a truck Friday night while walking his bicycle across U.S. 19.

      James Allen, of 2445 38th St. N in St. Petersburg, was crossing in the 3700 block about 6:45 p.m. when he was hit by a northbound 2000 Ford pickup driven by Brian Aldrich, 39, of 3776 28th Ave. N, St. Petersburg, according to a St. Petersburg police report.

      linky: http://blogs.tampabay.com/breakingnews/2009/01/st-petersburg-2.html [tampabay.com]

      Ignoring for a moment the (significant) differences between the US and UK... When the mainstream media freely publishes names and addresses of the people involved in newsworthy events, it becomes problematic to censor that information when it's published by non-mainstream media.

    • by digitig (1056110)
      Read the article again. Somebody put the private details in a public message, Indymedia spotted it and took the message down again. Then the police got heavy. If I posted the judge's details in this message, and if /. authorities (whoever they are) immediately deleted the message do you (and those who modded you insightful) really think an appropriate response by law enforcement would be to try to shut down /.?
  • by Hozza (1073224) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:50AM (#26605465)

    I know everyone is going to jump up and down about the right to free speech, but that isn't really the topic here.

    The police regarded the comment as an implicit threat to the trial judge, which would not come under "free speech" laws in many (most?) countries.

    They seized a *mirror* of the main server (the main site is still up a running just fine), in order to try to trace the original poster, and requested that the comment was removed from the site, which it has been.

    The main issue I see here is one of oversight, who's there to check that the police only look for forensics on the original poster, and don't start a fishing expedition on the seized server?

    • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:39AM (#26605637)

      Something people forget is that it isn't an unlimited right. Really, no rights are unlimited in a free society. Why? Well for you to have an unlimited right, implies that your right could infringe on my rights to some degree. For example suppose you had an unlimited right to speech. That would mean you could call for me to be killed. You could tell everyone that I should die, explain how best to kill me and so on, and I've have no recourse. You could lie about me continuously to people I care about in an attempt to harm me, you could harass me at every opportunity, and so on. While you having no limits to your right might make you more free, it would make me less free. In fact you find that the only place where people have near unlimited rights are dictatorships. The dictator has the right to do basically whatever they want. However that comes at the expense of more or less everyone else.

      Thus in free societies we have to have some limits to rights. We can't have a situation of "You do whatever you want." It has to be more along the lines of "You can do whatever you want, so long as that doesn't interfere with other people." Thus we get laws that restrict rights to an extent. You can say what you like, but not if you are threatening others. You can own all kinds of property, but you can't own other people. You can burn a flag but you can't burn your neighbor's flag and so on.

      So people need to get over this idea that you can just say whatever you want and there are never any consequences. No, not the case. You can say a whole lot, speech is one of the most permissive rights in most free countries, but there are limits. A threat would certainly be a limit just about everywhere.

      Any time you see a limitation like that, and you think it is unfair, ask yourself how you'd feel if you were on the receiving end. If your life was being threatened, would you be ok with that, or would you then want the person threatening you arrested? Because remember: You can't have it both ways. It can't be ok for you to do it to someone else, but not someone else to do it to you.

  • by CmdrGravy (645153) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:53AM (#26605477) Homepage

    I have no problem with the police taken the action they have, far from using their powers to "repress" anyone they are taking appropriate action to prevent groups like SHAC from harassing people, blackmailing them and generally making their lives a misery.

    In the article linked to in the header they are 'concerned' that the police have been instructed by their political masters to clamp down on anyone daring to threaten 'the corporations'. The author has obviously totally missed the point that primarily the activism isn't targetted at 'corporations' but at individuals who happen to work at them. It's usually not the 'corporation' which is branded as a paedophile in a leaflet campaign in it's neighbourhood, it's not the 'corporation' who has masked terrorists driving around his house at night shouting abuse and making threats and it's not corporations whose dead relatives are dug up and then held for ransom. Usually it's a delivery driver, admin assistant anyone who is unlucky enough to be targetted by these groups.

    I personally would not want to be relentlessly attacked in this matter because some random group of nutters took exception to something the company I worked for is involved in and I welcome any attempts by the government or the police to stand up and do something about it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hal_Porter (817932)

      Agreed. These people are terrorists

      http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=42 [splcenter.org]
      A Chicago insurance executive might seem like one of the last people who'd be opening a letter with this succinctly chilling message: "You have been targeted for terrorist attack."

      But that's what happened last year, when a top official at Marsh USA Inc. was informed that he and his company's employees had landed in the crosshairs of an extremist animal rights group. The reason? Marsh provides insurance for one of

    • The toughs now in jail were not even bright enough to harass employees of the company doing the animal testing. They were not even bright enough to harass employees of companies doing business with them.

      They would find names of big conglomerates doing business (in ways that often were extremely derivative, like messaging companies), choose a company from the group (that had nothing to do with animal testing) and then start harassing lets say the janitor.

      Anything the police does to put those individuals in j

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom Womack (8005)

      The UK government has acted against SHAC in the way that governments are good at: the people who committed the harassment will be in jail for some time.

      I find it very difficult ever to justify confiscating servers, because of the huge other-nonoffending-use argument; I'd be entirely at ease with a court order requiring the cooperation of the sysadmin with the police in investigating the origin of the illegal posting while keeping the machine up, but taking the machine away seems a disproportionate impact on

  • by RMH101 (636144) on Monday January 26, 2009 @04:55AM (#26605483)
    This happened in 2004 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/10/08/fbi_indymedia_raids/ [theregister.co.uk] - FBI confiscated its servers in London (how the hell does that work, then? US law enforcement in the UK?) based on comments on the G8.
    It also happened in 2005: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/06/28/indymedia_server_seizure_bristol/ [theregister.co.uk] in Bristol, UK, again relating to the G8 conference.
  • Imagine if /. servers got seized everytime someone saw fit to post comments with the addresses related to the "bad guy" in response to a story. Indymedia had already pulled said comments, does /. even have such a facility? I find some of what gets put on Indymedia to be massively disagreeable, OTOH I'm not a big fan of servers being pulled at random either.

  • The best defense... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Kindaian (577374) on Monday January 26, 2009 @05:37AM (#26605631) Homepage

    Is shared-hosting... and backups, off-site naturally.

    In that case, if they seize the server, they are seizing my site... and the site of more then 1000 other hosted sites...

    And with the backups, you are ready to just setup another host, and update everything in no time... ;)

  • Since this was a mirrored server that does not log IP addresses, is there any way we can think of that the police could use information stored on the server to identify the individual poster?

    Just off the top of my head, if the original post was still stored on the server, they could perhaps obtain the time punch as to when the comment was submitted.

  • Democracy per definition demands tolerance to non politically correct views and beliefs. Democracy cant exist without totally free speech since whats forbidden today is totally ok tomorrow. Just step back twenty years and there is plenty of stuff that was forbidden to talk about then thats just plain PC nowadays.

    A democracy without free speech is just a scam and not a single bit better than communism, nazism, monarchy or dictatorship. I hate it when people try to redefine free speech to be some quasi-free e

  • Seized? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Sounds like the police turned up without a warrant, asked the people running the hosting company, and they just handed it over.

    Not a "freedom of speech"/"police"/"big brother" issue. More of a "watch out who hosts your servers".

    If I had hosting with that company, I would remove it immediately for that.


  • We are smarter than they are. Remember "Tubes"? Don't want government in your server? Serve the pages from country X, put the database in country Y. For that matter distribute the database from Y, X and Z.

    There are solutions. When what's available today quits working by then very smart college students will have designed a web server similar to P2P. They had better get used to having the free flow of information. We're only one generation removed from the catch phrase "Information Wants to be Free."

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