Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Arrest in Indymedia Investigation in the U.K.

The investigation of the online activist site, Indymedia, as discussed several weeks ago, continues in the U.K. with the arrest of an individual hosting a server for the group. Police are investigating the publication of personal information belonging to a judge in an animal rights trial.

This case is an excellent study of the conflicting issues related to free speech and political dissent, the need to investigative crimes, international and cultural differences concerning privacy and how laws passed to give investigative powers in one area (terrorism) are quickly applied in unrelated areas (invasion of privacy).

Indymedia's view of the situation and events is provided below:

"This Monday, 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."

Also of interest are the comments to this post discussing activists perceptions of this situation and similiar issues encountered by other political activists around the world.

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