the electrohippie collective — communiqué April 2000

iDefense and the
Internet 'thought police':
Misrepresenting the facts to create a media panic

A statement from the electrohippie collective,
19.00UTC, Thursday 6th April 2000




As the electrohippies current action comes to a close, it is clear that the idea of translating public protest and lobbying to the Internet has support. The new tools developed by the electrohippies in particular the tools for email lobbying and developing 'distributed bandwidth' (a device to enable small groups to take large actions) have performed well. But this action has also demd well. But this action has also demonstrated the lengths to which the supporters of e-commerce will go to exert control over the publics' use of the Internet.

Leading the way in the backlash against the use of the Internet by campaigners is the group that call themselves 'iDefense' [1]. During our action last December iDefense branded us 'terrorists' without it would seem any evidence as to our group or our actions. For that reason we have sent them all our action alerts since then.

The iDefense alert sent out in relation to our action [2] clearly twisted the information we had sent to them and all the other FIRST teams [3] in order to create a media panic about the spread of activism on the Internet.

The iDefense release stated:

This is a curious list since none of these organisations formed any part of the information we sent out, or, with the exception of Monsanto and Novartis Seeds, formed any part of our proposed action. Even when journalists asked us for the list, we did not divulge any names until we had first notified them ourselves. The other names on the list were, it appears, fabricated by iDefense for their own purposes.

In fact the only accurate statement that was not in our original information pack was:

It is clear that the aim of iDefense, and similar organisations such as Infonic [4], is directed towards restricting the abilities of the public and campaign groups as a vehicle for dissent and protest. Even their use of language for example 'cyber-threats' or 'weapons'. Or the comment made by iDefense's Ben Venzeke, made to The Industry Standard bulletin [5], that:

This of course is in direct contradiction to the position of the electrohippies collective, as stated in our discussion paper on client-side denial of service [7]. Our mode of action specifically means that you simultaneously need that you simultaneously need tens of thousands of people thinking the same to achieve any notable success (as we put it, "the electrohippies democracy guarantee").

There were other instances of iDefense issuing inflated and erroneous claims about the electrohippies collective too [6].

But the true position of groups like iDefense is portrayed in some of the op-eds they distribute to the media, as well as the erroneous alerts circulated about e-activism. For example iDefense's CEO, John Adams, piece entitle, 'Shifting the Balance of Power: Private Sector Control of the Critical Infrastructure' [8]. What these groups are all about is restricting the right of the public to take action against corporations over the Internet. They understand the power of public pressure in real life, and funded by large corporations, they are seeking to ensure the same modes of action are not translated to cyberspace.

During the week the electrohippies collective has been subjected to pressure from the 'thought police' of the Internet security establishment. Our service provider has been approached with a request to terminate our action. But luckily for us our service provider is dedicated towards protecting community action. Likewise the provider of a email and feed back 'drop-off' address is under pressure to terminate our account. That address is not actually used to organised the protest it act's as a conduit where we can re conduit where we can receive feedback for and against in response to our actions, statements and discussion papers.

The issue of freedom of speech on the 'Net is very important. The growth of 'free serves' is enabling greater access to the 'Net. But we have anecdotal evidence that many of the companies offering free, and even paid Internet access and email are susceptible to pressure from corporations to terminate the account of 'troublesome' users in particular those working for social change. We must confront this issue head on, and challenge any organisation that seeks to restrict any lawful activity that is being organised over the Internet. The postal service does not have the power to withdraw its service from customers. Likewise Internet service Providers must be bound by the same principle. Not to do so would enable governments or corporations to have an iron grip over public communication in the future, as the globe becomes more connected. In essence, George Orwell's 1984 transposed to cyberspace.

iDefense also neglected to state one important fact about our proposed 'distributed denial of service' (DDoS) action. During the week we have been taking a vote [9] amongst those taking part in the other activities as to whether or not we should proceed with it. The results were:

Our belief in ensuring clear supportef in ensuring clear support means that although 'yes' formed the largest vote, it was not proportionately the greatest (i.e., more than 50% of all votes cast). In our view the "don't know's" have a right to be heard too. We will therefore not be proceeding with the DDoS action.


In conclusion then, three points:

Firstly, in our view the week was a success because our tools performed as expected across the variety of platforms and browsers available. The feedback provided by the public has been very valuable in both confirming the abilities of the tools, and providing ideas and tips on how the general operation of the action can be improved.

Secondly, it is clear that there is a growing backlash, similar to the backlash against community and environmental groups run by public relations companies in the USA [10], to the development of online activism. Corporations realise the power of the Net, and the ability it gives to communities and campaign groups to work together and apply pressure to governments and corporations. For this reason both governments and corporations are willing to fund groups such as iDefense to do their work for them, monitoring, compiling reports, and actively seeking to whip up media panics about online activism. We must also assume that they have close links to security services too.

Finally, related to the above point, the electrohippies collective has monitored the activities of groups such as iDefense since it was first formed. Basically, providing 'intelligence on the intelligence corporations'. We will now be networking with other campaign groups in order to provide guidance, on the Net, to highlight the role of these groups and their activities in misrepresenting the role of community activism on the Net.

We are also calling for any community campaign groups, promoting lawful actions and activities, and who have been denied access to services by Internet Service Providers, to send their details to us for inclusion in our forthcoming information page on the Internet 'thought police'. Details should be forwarded to our usual email address unless our ISP terminates it. But our current point of contact can always be found on our website at http://www.gn.apc.org/pmhp/ehippies/


The next step for the collective now is to refine our tools with the information gathered during the week. We will shortly issue discussion papers on the use of both email lobbying and our concepts for 'distributed bandwidth'.



ENDS



NOTES FOR EDITORS
  1. iDefense has a website at http://www.idefense.com/. They described themselves as a company working on 'intelligence, risk management and certification'.

  2. Issued by Jerry Irvine (JIrvine@iDefense.com), Friday, March 31, 2000 11:02 AM. 'Subject: iALERT: 2000 11:02 AM. 'Subject: iALERT: Major Cyber Action Kicks Off April 1'.

  3. FIRST the Forum of Incident Response and Security Teams. These groups monitor events on the Internet looking for security related material. The electrohippies include the FIRST teams on our email notification list as well as iDefense because we believe in being entirely open about what we do. To contact a FIRST representative send a PGP signed e-mail request to first- sec@first.org

  4. Infonic is an 'internet intelligence agency' based in London. They have been monitoring the electrohippies website, and it's host 'The Environmental Activism Website', during the first quarter of this year. They have also appeared on television news programmes during November and December 1999 criticising the development on online activism. Actually, their website is incredibly minimalist, reflecting their secretive nature worth a look.

  5. 'Business Under Attack', Elinor Abreu, The Industry Standard, 3rd April 2000. http://www.thestandard.com/articles/display/0,1151,13483,00.html

  6. 'Electrohippies set to launch massive trade protest', Scripps Howard News Service, 5th April 2000. http://shns.scripps.com/shns/story.cfm?pk=E-SITIN-04-05-00&cat=AN

  7. 'Client-side Distributed Denial of Service', electrohippies collective occasional paper no.1, March 2000. http://www.gn.apc.org/pmhp/ehippies/files/op1.htm

  8. To see John Adams (iDefense's CEO) op-ed articles go to http://www.idefense.com/pages/opeds.html for the item on 'Private Sector Control of the Critical Infrastructure (February 25, 1999) go to http://www.idefense.com/idmarketsite/jadocs/22599AFCEA.pdf

  9. Everyone going through the action portal was required to express an opinion as to whether the DDoS action should proceed – it was not voluntary.

  10. For more information on the 'environmental backlash' go to http://www.gn.apc.org/pmhp/dc/backlash/index.htm


issued by the electrohippies collective, 19.00 UTC, 6/4/2000





© 2000 the electrohippie collective. Produced by Paul Mobbs. Released under the GNU Free Documentation License
(with invariant sections being the document title and author identification, no front-cover texts, and no back-cover texts).