Monday, February 02, 2009

Indymedia Server Seized - A Lesson in Network Resilience

Indymedia - one of the largest international clearinghouses of news and information for social activism - was recently raided by police in the UK. The raid was apparently the result of an investigation into the publication of personal information belonging to a trail judge in a comment to an article on an animal rights trial.

Indymedia had already removed the offending article per their own policies, however, police seized a server containing a large quantity of information:
" seizing this server they [the police] are not only getting information on Indymedia but also on wholly unrelated groups."
However, the seizure of the server did not interrupt Indymedia operations. Indymedia's network is highly distributed and redundant with extensive mirroring of data:
"As with previous cases, Indymedia UK stayed online this time. This was possible due to a system of "mirrors", which was set up to protect the technical infrastructure of the alternative media project. Despite the resource intensive interruptions caused by server seizures, the DIY-media activists continue to provide a platform for "news straight from the streets"."
Although it appears the police were not attempting to censor the information, this case shows both the flexibility, power and dynamic nature of online communication. However, this resilience cuts both ways: Activists and other politically motivated sites are difficult to censor or disrupt, but likewise, when commercial or government sites are the target of online protests by hacktivists, their online attacks often have limited or no operational impact on their targets for the same reason.

Other case studies of this phenomenon are documented in Hacktivism and Politically Motivated Computer Crime.

Police Seize UK Indymedia Server (Again)

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