History of world telecommunications|
Date: Thu, 11 Sep 97 09:31:55 CDT
From: Arm The Spirit <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Time-Warner's "Net Guerrillas"
The Real Revolution: Net Guerrillas
By Elizabeth Frantz,
21 July 1997
[The following article appeared on Time-Warner's Pathfinder web
site a few weeks ago. - ATS.
The recent kidnapping and assassination of Spanish
politician Miguel Angel Blanco by the Basque separatist group ETA
has ignited a violent backlash that is spilling into cyberspace.
In the wake of the widespread protest against ETA, the
Spanish government requested last week that the Cable News
Network (CNN) remove its link to the group's web site. Miguel
Garzon, spokesman for the Spanish Embassy in Washington D.C.,
defended the move by saying the ETA should be considered
terrorist and not separatist, and therefore links should not be
made to them. The ETA has killed nearly 800 people since it took
up arms in 1968 to fight for independence for Spain's northern
CNN refused the Spanish government's request, saying that it
was standard practice to provide links that relate to the subject
matter -- even if the subject is terrorism. More and more
terrorist groups are creating pockets of resistance online, a
fact that is beginning to raise serious questions, especially for
educational institutions, where John Q. Taxpayer might be
indirectly paying for a Zapatista web site.
Meanwhile, warring factions are simply taking their fight
onto the information battlefield. The Institute for Global
Communications (IGC), a nonprofit Internet service provider for
activist groups, has seen its system crippled by a deluge of mail
bomb attacks against a site maintained by the Euskal Herria
Journal (EHJ -- a New York-based group supporting Basque
independence in Spain and France.) It contains information on the
ETA as well as human rights and lawful Basque groups. A flood of
mail with bogus or no return addresses from anonymous automated
mail relay systems swamped the IGC's servers last week.
"It's bringing our business to a standstill," said Maureen
Mason, program coordinator for IGC. "The legitimate protest mail
we receive from Europe we take very seriously. However, there is
no way we would ever cancel a client's site because of a mail
bombing attack on IGC."
On Friday, however, IGC suspended the EHJ site.
"This destructive campaign has overwhelmed our ability to
keep our system running and we have made the difficult decision
to suspend the Euskal Herria Journal Web site -- under protest --
so that we can continue to serve the many other individuals and
organizations who depend on our services," IGC said in a press
On the page now replacing the EHJ site, the IGC asked for
support from organizations and individuals concerned with freedom
of expression on the Internet. Audrie Krause, director of the
Internet policy and educational organization NetAction, responded
by saying that "mailbombers need to know that vigilante
censorship is just as unacceptable as government censorship."
IGC's Maureen Mason remarked, "If a nonprofit Internet
provider like us can't keep up a controversial site, I don't know
In fact, IGC is not the only group under fire for its links
to guerrilla group web sites. Along with the ETA, rebel groups
such as the MRTA, FARC-EP and Zapatistas have joined the
burgeoning ranks of political groups that are bringing their
message to the Internet. Some are even finding cyberspace allies
on American university servers, raising a hot debate on First
In early May of this year, officials at the State University
of New York at Binghamton learned that the Revolutionary Armed
Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), Latin America's largest guerrilla
group, was running a web site on the university network. Though
uncertain as to how the group originally gained access, the
school's administration quickly shut down the site.
"It [the FARC site] was in clear violation of university
policy," said Anita Doll, director of communications at
Binghamton. "For us, it was not an issue of academic freedom. It
was an issue of resource use. Our facilities are supposed to be
used by university faculty, staff and students. It was an issue
of the appropriate use of university resources."
Officials at the University of California at San Diego,
however, had a far different reaction to their taxpayer-funded
guerrilla site. Shortly after the Peruvian rebel hostage crisis
began at the Japanese embassy in December, Tupac Amaru
Revolutionary Movement sympathizers posted an MRTA web site, the
Solidarity Page, on the school's computer. The Communications
Department at UCSD provides the web space for the site.
"We're proud that our students are part of that
communications network. We don't see any reason to get rid of it
because it's controversial," said Dan Hallin, chairman of the
Communications Department at UCSD.
In the give-'em-an-inch-they'll-take-a-mile school of
thought, the students who run the Solidarity Page and go by the
name the Burn! Collective also provide links to a lot of other
fringe political groups and radical organizations, including
Radikal, the German resistance magazine banned in Germany; Arm
The Spirit, the Toronto-based anti-imperialist collective; and
the Zapatistas, who launched an uprising in Chiapas, Mexico,
three years ago. The Zapatistas were among the first rebel groups
to bring their revolution to cyberspace.
The Burn and FARC-EP sites have prompted criticism from
predictable outside groups, such as the Heritage Foundation, a
national conservative public policy research group.
"It is outrageous that groups who have attacked Americans
repeatedly in the past were allowed to worm their way into a
situation where American taxpayers subsidized their propaganda
on the Internet," insisted Jim Phillips, terrorism specialist at
Heritage. "SUNY-Binghamton was correct to shut down their site
when they discovered what was going on. I think that UCSD
has a hard time explaining why they are subsidizing terrorists."
On the other hand, SUNY-Binghamton may have violated the
First Amendment by closing down its FARC-EP site. "The question
turns on whether the university is censoring students' sites
based on content or whether the university has a neutral,
non-content-based rule," said James Dempsey, senior staff counsel
for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit Internet
civil liberties group. "If it looks like the government singled
out this one site because of its content, then it's impermissible
under the First Amendment."
On a similar note, Carl Kadie, president of Computers in
Academic Freedom, said that SUNY-Binghamton was reinventing an
old censorship trick that universities used to restrict
unpopular speakers from off-campus. In 1958, for example, the
University of Illinois established rules for visiting speakers
which said that no employee of the university shall allow any
subversive, seditious and un-American organization the use of
university facilities for publicizing the activities of that
organization. Kadie said that in the 1950s, the University of
Illinois was more the norm than the exception, and that many
state universities maintained similar policies.
However, this changed in 1967 with the American Association
of University Professors' (AAUP) Joint Statement on Rights and
Freedoms of Students. The main declaration of student
academic freedom in the U.S., it said that university control of
campus facilities should not be used "as a device of censorship,"
and that students should be allowed to invite and hear any person
they chose. Though the AAUP's Joint Statement was not
automatically binding on universities, according to Kadie, many
have adopted parts of it.
"I suspect that SUNY-Binghamton does not even realize that
it is falling back into the old patterns of university
censorship. I hope it will reconsider its policy," Kadie said.
A full copy of the AAUP's Joint Statement on Rights and
Freedoms of Students is available at:
Con las Masas y las Armas, Patria o Muerte ... VENCEREMOS!
MRTA Solidarity Page - http://burn.ucsd.edu/~ats/mrta.htm