Rights group opposes ISP attack

Cyberlibertarians come out as one against an organized protest that resulted in an attack campaign to force the shutdown of a Web site promoting Basque independence.

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Civil libertarians from 17 of the Net's most powerful rights groups have come out as one against an organized protest that resulted in a denial of service attack and mailbombing campaign, forcing the shutdown of a Web site promoting Basque independence.

In July, the politically progressive Internet service provider, Institute for Global Communications, was forced to cut off access to the New-York based Euskal Herria Journal after an organized denial of service and email bomb campaign by those who opposed the journal for political reasons.

Those participating in the protest said the site's producers were sympathetic to the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, an armed independence group known for its political violence in Spain.

But the Global Internet Liberty Campaign released a statement yesterday saying that they were taking "no stand on the Basque question." Instead, it was focusing on the censorship question.

"We condemn the orchestrated campaign to shut down IGC services because one Web site they hosted was promoting Basque independence," stated a letter signed by 17 international organizations, including Fronteras Electr?nicas Espa?a (FrEE, Electronic Frontiers Spain), Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, U.K.-based Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and NetAction.

"We simply support the rights of organizations to carry on electronic communications without deliberate disruption and the right to freedom of expression," the statement added.

IGC members were forced to take down the Web site because the attack campaign had been crippling the entire service for its estimated 13,000 subscribers.

ISPs should not be held accountable for the content produced by their customers, the free speech group stressed.

"It is wrong to assume that the ISPs are the 'usual suspects' for any kind of Internet content including child pornography, hate speech, and inconvenient Web sites," said Yaman Akdeniz of Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties. "A recent European Union communication paper stated that ISPs play a key role in giving users access to Internet content. It should not, however, be forgotten that the prime responsibility for content lies with authors and content providers, not service providers."

The GILC also contended that denial of service attacks are the equivalent of techno-gag orders.

"We also condemn denial of service attacks in general. They are an undemocratic way of trying to censor a particular speaker, and they misuse the Internet by weighing down an Internet provider and the networks through which the attacks pass, thus forcing 'innocent bystanders' across the Internet to pay for the attack and suffer some of its consequences," the public letter states.