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  • US seizes webservers from independent media sites

    London Guardian | October 11 2004

    American authorities have shut down 20 independent media centres by seizing their British-based webservers.

    On Thursday a court order was issued to Rackspace, an American-owned web hosting company in Uxbridge, Middlesex, forcing it to hand over two servers used by Indymedia, an international media network which covers of social justice issues and provides a "news-wire", to which its users contribute.

    The websites affected by the seizure span 17 countries.

    It is unclear why, or to where, the servers have been taken. The FBI, speaking to the French AFP, acknowledged that a subpoena had been issued but said this was at the request of Italian and Swiss authorities.

    "It is not an FBI operation," said its spokesman, Joe Parris.

    Rackspace told Indymedia that it had been served with a court order under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, under which countries assist each other in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering

    It is unclear why such a treaty would apply in this context. A UK Indymedia journalist said: "The authorities may just be using this as a trawling exercise. We don't know."

    It is also unclear if the Home Office was involved.

    The Metropolitan police said it was not aware of the move.

    The UK Indymedia site is now working, because it was backed up on another server, unlike others which are still shut down.

    One of the servers was to be used to stream web radio coverage of the European Social Forum conference in London next week.

    Aidan White, the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, condemned the "intolerable and intrusive" action .

    Tim Gopsill of the NUJ said: "If the security services of the UK or US can just walk in and take away a server, then there is no freedom of expression."

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