I’m an unashamed fan (and user) of Riseup, the Seattle-based autonomous tech collective. Here’s an item from their latest email bulletin – a nice bit of action to protect activism.
(warning: legal stuff specific to the United States)
What do right-wing churches, kiss-ins, homophobic lawyers, and Riseup have in common? They were all involved in “Mount Hope Baptist Church v. Riseup.net” in US Federal court. The short story: we kicked ass.
After a right-wing church subpoenaed the account records of several Riseup users, we went to court on behalf of these users to defend their right to anonymous speech. By winning our case, Riseup has established an important precedent in US Federal court. Riseup’s legal victory is important because it strengthens our ability to defend the anonymity of Riseup users.
The legal system in the US has consistently ruled that the ability to speak anonymously is an important part of the right to free speech. However, there is a bit of a catch-22: when someone tries to identify you online, how can you defend your right to anonymous speech if defending your anonymity in court reveals your identity? At the moment, this is untested law in the US, and some courts have ruled that internet sites cannot protect the anonymity of their users without the users coming forward themselves. Our success in defending the right of users to remain anonymous, on their behalf, helps to establish a vital precedent in the US: you don’t lose your right to anonymous speech when you go online.
Google also received subpoenas as part of the same case, and turned over their gmail information without any attempts by Google to defend them. Legally, online service providers can receive subpoenas and hand over data without even informing the individuals that their data was requested. Riseup would like to thank movement lawyers for the long hours put into this case. Without you, the world would be a scarier place.
Thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the National Lawyer’s Guild, and our very own Sunbird. We would also like to thank the opposing counsel for suggesting that the Riseup users in this case don’t deserve protection because their speech was not “patriotic” free speech. Hilarity ensued. We wish you safe travels back to the bizarro world where you came from. More details about the activist action in Michigan.