FBI officials seized the servers of an anonymous email remailer used by human rights and digital rights activists in an effort to catch the source of bomb threats that have plagued University of Pittsburgh since February.
Wired.com’s Threat Level blog reported on Monday that a server for Mixmaster, a freely available protocol that allows a sender to resend emails anonymously in order to avoid being traced by authorities, was seized on April 18.
The groups affected were Seattle-based digital rights activism group Rise Up and two different Internet service providers (ISPs) — politically progressive ISP May First/People Link and Italian ISP European Counter Network.
Rise Up spokesman Devin Theriot-Orr said in a statement that the FBI was using a “sledgehammer,” punishing hundreds of people for the actions of “an anonymous person.” The seizure, he added, took offline over 300 email accounts, between 50-80 email lists and several other websites. Rise Up currently hosts a community of 16,450 listservs and 4,086,621 subscribers, with a diverse array of groups including advocates of alternative agriculture, economic justice, globalization, labor and unions, anarchism and socialism.
“This is plainly extra-judicial punishment and an attack on free speech and anonymity on the Internet and serves as a chilling effect on others providers of anonymous remailers or other anonymous services,” Theriot-Orr concluded.