Archive | March, 2005

FBI Persecuting Independent Media Websites Again

The FBI has demanded server logs of which hosts a variety of grassroots anarchist websites, including the valuable, and Infoshop News. The sysadmin, Dave, is under a gag order preventing him from giving specific details, but explains some of the circumstances in an informal “press release”:

I have been ordered to submit IP info on two separate incidents having to do with subdomains hosted on flag. Both of these are in regard to claimed or threatened responsibility for acts of propaganda by the deed. Both incidents involve topics which are completely out of line for consideration here at flag and really I can only view them in two ways. Either people are simply ignorant about the murderous history of the FBI, or, as is my belief in one case, they are trying to make flag vulnerable to government intrusion. …

I have called numerous friends nationwide, anarchists and otherwise whose opinions I respect and who I know will be honest and forthwith in their opinions to ask them how I should proceed. The unanimous consensus is that I comply with the wishes of the FBI and provide the IP addresses responsible. The only point of discussion, really, has been whether or not I should reveal the specific information in violation of two court orders. …

Though it pains me to comply with the State in any manner, I have… The people who have foolishly compromised us all will shoulder the burden for their selfish actions. Frankly folks, they know better – we all know better.

Without a doubt these demands for server logs, like Indymedia has experienced, is a harassment technique, especially since system administrators risk court-sanctioned penalties if they do not comply.

Dave invokes COINTELPRO in his release, in reference to the fact that the posts garnering FBI attention are presumably about committing acts of targeted violence of some sort. The COINTELPRO angle is the possibility that government officials or agents made the posts in order to give the feds an excuse to go fishing through server logs.

Even if it’s not a direct government or law enforcement plot, the posts may be the work of persons with an ax to grind, looking to create trouble for We certainly see more than our fair share of garbage posts to Indymedia websites that seem written only for the purpose of stirring up trouble and bringing unwanted attention.

And, of course, maybe the posts are the result of moronic braggadocio from folks who thinks it’s cool to strut about and talk big, or, sadly, they could be posts from people who have actually committed some violence and aren’t smart enough to keep their mouths shut.

In any event, the net effect is still chilling. If the FBI can come in and seize records of who posts to radically political forums and newswires, then that presents a strong disincentive for people to post information and opinions that challenge the ruling order.

Indymedia has seen similar demands for server logs and actually experienced the seizure of equipment. As a result of the FBI’s first demand for Indymedia server logs back in 2001, most, if not all, IMC websites do not maintain server logs that contain identifying information like IP addresses.

Unfortunately, not maintaining IP logs make it harder to fend off crackers trying to attack IMC websites, but the consensus appears to be that the tradeoff is worthwhile in order to protect the anonymity of IMC website posters.

According to comments on this thread about the situation at NYC IMC, some of the software running sites on that server do maintain IP addresses, which the sysadmins periodically purge. Unfortunately, it looks like the addresses the FBI was after were not yet purged.

The threat from the government is real, and the intent is real: Independent media websites should shut up and control what gets published. Don’t push the boundaries.

We don’t have to give in to the threat. But I agree with Dave, that we have to pay attention and watch ourselves:

This is why we do not discuss certain things as if they are a legitimate part of anarchism. Resist the extra y-chromosome influenced urge to sound more hardcore than the guy next to you. Nobody is impressed and the powers that be are sitting on the edges of their seats waiting for an excuse to shut down flag. Freedom of speech does not exist, don’t try to test it. They will come bust down your door – for real – point a gun to your head and pull the trigger if you refuse to comply.

Believe it.

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Plan Your Trip to Bowling Green (Ohio) — Allied Media Conference Is On for June

Without a doubt, I have to say that the Allied Media Conference is the one conference that I most look forward to, and I’m glad to see that this year’s is scheduled and getting organized. This year it goes down June 17 – 19, in good old Bowling Green, Ohio, as always.

The reason why AMC is so good is because it’s pretty much a low key gathering of independent media makers in a little Midwest college town. It doesn’t seem like much goes on in Bowling Green during the summer months when school is out, so the participants of AMC kind of take over for the weekend. Imagine campus hang-outs overrun with zinesters, filmmakers, indymedia reporters, book publishers, stencil artists and underground rappers. I’m pretty sure it brings a welcome boost to the local business economy, especially the coffee shops, bars and vegetarian restaurant. Frankly, a nice thing about having the conference in Bowling Green is that there aren’t a lot of other distractions making you have to choose between attending sessions or go sightseeing.

The vibe is always very open-minded and you meet people who are very passionate about making all different types of media. Zine culture is where the AMC was born as the Underground Publishing Conference, and I think that fundamentally thoughtful DIY ethic really forms the foundation. As represented by the name Allied Media Conference, it has become a forum for people engaged in all types of communicative creation: film, video, radio documentary, music, zines, book publishing and web publishing. There is always an exhibition hall where creators have tables to sell, show off and give away their wares — I always bring extra cash to drop there.

I’ve met some great folks over the years who I’ve managed to stay in touch with, even when they haven’t been able to make the trip to Bowling Green.

If this sounds like an advertisement, it is. If you’re interested at all in independent media creation you really owe it to yourself to check out the AMC.

In keeping with its grassroots nature, the AMC organizers put out an open call for session ideas and film/video showings. This year I’ve proposed a sesssion on blogging from the independent perspective. I’m fed up with all the blather about whether blogs are journalism or if they’re credible at all. I’d prefer to have dedicated bloggers talk about why they blog at all, and how they do it. To hell with mainstream credibility.

Oh, and there are also two free music shows and a night of free bowling scheduled for all registered participants. Last year one of the bands was the Evens, featuring Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye, putting on a very intimate performance. And bowling with an alley full of indy media makers is really something to experience.

Barring calamity, I will be attending, and likely having a table in order to hawk mediageek zines. I plan to have mediageek zine #3 ready by then. I’m also planning some other mediageek schwag to sell or give away.

I always bring a minidisc recorder and a microphone to record interviews for the radioshow. Click more for links to some of them from years past:

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Recent Radio Shows Online: Howard Feld on Translator Trafficking; Stephen Dunifer Discusses Free Radio Camp and Unlicensed TV

The last two mediageek radio shows are both on-line and definitely worth a listen if you’ve been following the FM translator trafficking scandal, or interested in free radio and TV.

  • mediageek 3-25-05: Free Radio Workshops on Tour
    On this program we talk with Stephen Dunifer, of Free Radio Berkeley, about their upcoming Radio Camps, offering a four-day workshop on building and operating unlicensed low-power FM transmitters. The camps will be going on tour this Spring to Madison, WI, and several other locations in the US and Latin America. Dunifer also tells us about FRB’s recent foray into unlicensed TV broadcasting.

  • mediageek 3-18-05: Harold Feld of MAP Explains Christian Radio Translator Trafficking Scheme

    Harold Feld of the Media Access Project gives us the skinny on a petition by Prometheus and other media reform groups to the FCC demanding a freeze on noncommercial FM translator stations applications in order to halt what they see as a trafficking scam. And, coincidentally, the FCC does it, but as part of a LPFM strengthening effort.

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FCC Freezes Translator Apps for 6 Months, Begins Proceeding to Expand & Strengthen LPFM

On Thursday the FCC released a Second Order on Reconsideration and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the low-power FM service, putting forth many important questions for “strengthening” and “expanding” LPFM. Amongst many issues, in this proposed rulemaking the FCC is taking up the nature of the relationship between translator stations and LPFM stations, noting that there are problems, especially since the nationwide translator application window opened up before the LPFM application window in some regions.

Importantly, the FCC has placed a six month freeze on new translator construction permits and licenses:

As an interim measure while we consider these important questions, we direct the Media Bureau to stop granting FM translator new station construction permits for which short-form applications were filed in the 2003 window. This freeze is effective upon the release of this Further Notice and shall remain in effect for six months.

While the FCC does recognize many of Prometheus’ arguments about translators in its notice, the Commission is not acting on their recent petition in enacting this freeze. No direct mention is made of Edgewater / Radio Assist Ministry / World Radio Link, nor Prometheus et al’s charges of improper trafficking in translator stations.

The Second Order on Reconsideration provides some very practical relief to organizations that currently have LPFM construction permits by increasing the distance by which a licensee can easily change its transmitter location, and by allowing an 18 month extention to a construction permit. The latter change will be welcome here at Urbana’s forthcoming LPFM station, since the site of the station is still up in the air pending some possible changes with the home of our IMC (where the station will be housed), and the construction deadline of June is looming.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking gives the refreshing indication that the FCC was actually paying attention during its recent LPFM day, posing many important questions about the future of LPFM. One such proposal is making LPFM a primary service, which means, amongst many things, that a LPFM station would be protected from interference from other stations, especially translator stations.

There’s a lot of questions to consider, and there are thirty days to send comments to the FCC.

You can read the news release (pdf download) or the full order (pdf download) for yourself. Click MORE to read the main points of the proposed rulemaking.

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Say Hello to the New Chair, Same as the Old Chair

So, by now, if you follow communications news at all, you’ve probably heard that Kevin Martin is the new chair of the FCC. I’m on vacation at the moment, so I couldn’t be right on top of it.

After thinking about a potential Martin chairship for a couple of months now, I can summarize my basic reaction in some bullet points:

  • This is no surprise. Bush likes Martin, and I think he feels a little stung by Powell’s bull-in-a-china-shop strategery. Martin is better at playing DC Republican politics.
  • Martin is more of a telecomm-head than a media-head, but he generally favors deregulation, even if he occasionally differed with Powell on telecomm issues.
  • Martin did vote “yes” on the media deregulation package of 2003, which is now back in the FCC’s lap. One small hope is that he will be more open to public hearings and input than Powell was (much to his own ruin). Because he spouts less “free-market” ideology we might expect him to be more pragmatic. But these are small hopes.
  • Martin’s got a hard-on for indecency regulation, and appears to want to extend it to cable and satellite. This is bad, and makes Powell look downright moderate on the issue — ol’ Mikey said last month that he does not favor enforcing indecency on cable and satellite, and that doing so is unconstitutional. For once, I think Mikey is right.
  • Martin may push indecency regs on cable and satellite even if there is a strong likelihood of it being struck down by the courts. If he’s pandering to the Christian right, then he won’t lose even if he loses in court, and that might give him cover for other deregulatory moves that may be less popular. (Remember, the NRA and many other conservative groups were against the FCC’s loosened ownership regs.)

    The “values” crowd often cares more about effort and show than effects — they’ll give Martin an A for effort even if it gets struck down. Whereas, the broadcast and telecomm industries are less sanguine about effort — they want results, and if you fail, then it’s because your strategy failed, not just because the court is against you.

So, in summary, Martin may have a little more political savvy and conservative “values” cred than Powell, but their respective agendas are not that far apart. Without a doubt, Martin is no friend to the public interest when it comes to issues of ownership or consumer’s rights. He is no Michael Copps or Johnathan Adelstein.

If the technique is a little more refined, the results can still be the same. This is still the Bush administration after all.

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