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Protest the Denial-of-Service Attacks on the Institute for Global Communications

Protest the Denial-of-Service Attacks on the Institute for Global Communications

(See also a statement made by the Global Internet Liberty Campaign in English and Spanish.)

29 July 1997

Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, which has been assessing the impacts of computer networking on society for years, lends its support to the Institute for Global Communications in its attempts to give alternative political organizations a voice. We condemn the orchestrated campaign to shut down IGC services because of one Web site they hosted promoting Basque independence.

We understand that a large segment of the Spanish public feel outrage toward the recent assassination of Miguel Angel Blanco by the Basque separatist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). However, the presentation of political viewpoints is a matter of free speech, independent of the actions of any one organization. A government can prosecute an organization for violence without suppressing its right, or other organizations’ right, to discuss political viewpoints. We note that:

  1. Apart from legitimate protest messages, attacks were carried out on IGC Web and electronic mail servers with the goal of shutting them down. This is a well known (and in many countries, prosecutable) type of disruption that falls in the category of “denial-of-service” attacks.
  2. Many people sending huge numbers of mail messages (“electronic mail-bombs”) disguised the messages so that they could not be traced back to the perpetrators.
  3. Several individuals on the Internet and at least one Spanish newspaper reported the attacks and asked readers to send their own mail messages, thus forming a campaign to disrupt IGC. This campaign goes beyond protest to become a form of censorship and should be criticized by anyone concerned with freedom of speech.
  4. IGC provides services to hundreds of organizations around the world, all of whom were effectively deprived of online access by attacks meant to protest one organization.
  5. IGC was not hosting the ETA itself, but another Basque separatist organization (the Basque Congress for Peace), which was based in the United States and carried some material complimentary to the ETA. If organizations can be censored for such tenuous connections to an organization that people find objectionable, all political discussion is threatened.

CPSR takes no stand on the Basque question and does not support the use of violence by the ETA. We simply support the rights of organizations to carry on electronic communications without deliberate disruption, and the right to freedom of expression.

We also condemn denial-of-service attacks in general. Not only are they an undemocratic way of trying to censor a particular speaker, but they misuse the Internet by weighing down a Internet provider and the networks through which the attacks pass, thus forcing users across the Internet to pay for the attack and suffer some of its consequences.

We have helped IGC find mirror sites for the censored Web site and to install Internet security mechanisms that cut down on denial-of-service attacks. We urge other supporters of free speech to back IGC and condemn the disruptions.

CPSR is a 16-year-old organization with over 1500 members in the computer field and other fields with a concern for the use of technology and information. Our campaigns have included opposition to SDI (Star Wars), promoting privacy, and making computers and the Internet available to low-income people.

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