Date: Fri, 3 Jul 98 15:19:12 CDT
From: David Briars <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Italian Freedom press web site seized
Subject: Italian Freedom press web site seized
Date: 3 July, 1998
From: evel <email@example.com>
————— Forwarded message —————
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 1998
From: Patrice Riemens <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Weekend raid on ecn server, Italy.
At 10.30 am, Saturday 27th June, police in Bologna, North Italy, raided the premises of the European Counter-Information Network, seizing their computer which was hosting internet material for Freedom Press.
Everyone knows that groups like ourselves—publishing material which challenges established institutions—run the risk of being silenced by those we criticise. There is nothing new in this. But what is new, and instructive, is how such gagging techniques are to be applied to the internet.
People who have access to the internet can read Freedom Press material held on various computers around the world. We have information which is hosted for us by people in Holland, Canada and, up until the 27th June, Italy.
The European Counter-Information Network (also known by the name of the collective which maintains the site—Islands in the Net) is, of course, a non-profit making organisation whose main offence would seem to be a belief in freedom of expression. Those who visit their site are faced with a wide choice of alternative information in a variety of languages not only coming from Italy but from all around the world.
More than 40 of the Italian Social Centres (we have reported on before in Freedom) use the service along with labour organisations like the Spanish CNT and the Italian USI. Alternative radio stations such as Onda d’Urto, Radio Blackout and Radio Sherwood use space on the server alongside paper publications like Freedom Press, Bandiera Rossa from Milan and various digital publications like .zip. Music bands also have their pages which bring in many of the thousands of people who use the ecn server on a daily basis: visiting the web site or using the discussion forums known as mailing lists. These include a huge variety of subjects ranging from news about developments in Chiapas to citizens rights in a digital age and the only discussion list about gay rights in Italy.
All this came to a sudden end on Saturday when the State Prosecutor for Vicenza—Paoli Pecori—authorised the seizure by the police of the computer which held this information. Thus, in the words of one member of the collective, ‘from now on (and who knows for how long?) the server will be down and… the construction of a strong solidarity network among several self-organised collectives (will be halted)’.
The precise reason why the server has been seized remains unclear. Ostensibly it goes back to a message sent to one of the mailing lists which denounced a Turkish travel agency—Turban Italia Sri whose headquarters is in Milan—by linking them to the financial interests of the former Turkish premier Tansu C,iller and which called on people to boycott the agency in solidarity with the Kurdish people.
What makes the situation strange is that the material in question had already been published on a flier and was in the public domain. In this instance the information was only being reproduced. Even stranger, perhaps, is that the ecn collective should be held responsible for the contents of a document they had not been involved in producing and, no longer strange but rather sinister, that all the many groups we have listed should be silenced. It's a bit as though the BBC (TV, radio and paper publications) were shut down without warning because a DJ on Radio One had read out a message from a listener because it contained questionnable material. All this would be funny if it weren’t true.
The whole question of content control on the internet is a worldwide question now like the internet itself. Here in the UK the government has started the ball rolling officially with talk about copyright and unofficially it has begun in the press with fear campaigns about child pornography and bomb making recipes. The hidden agenda is just that: hidden. It comes out into the open when the kind of think we are seeing in Italy today will be in our own backyard tomorrow.
Fortunately, resistance is a possibility. The ecn server will not be down for long and already moves are being made to mirror (duplicate) parts of the site elsewhere. This kind of move has precedents and sometimes when the authorities go for the little folk (remember McDonalds?) it can backfire. Here however we are dealing with state censorship. A different beast and possibly more vicious than a hamburger.