German authorities shut down indymedia site
The German interior minister Thomas de Maizière ordered the site linksunten.indymedia.org to be taken down. Anonymous posts are apparently too threatening for the state.
Three people have been served with orders and several properties have been searched. Computers and other material were confiscated.
The order states that the site is “by its intention and practice in violation of the law.”
The site is part of the international indymedia open posting platform that was established in the early 2000s. In recent years, linksunten (literally “bottom left”, due to its geographical location in Freiburg in the south-west corner of Germany) has been one of the more active indymedia sites, with many communiques and radical discussions having been published.
During the recent protests against the G20 summit in Hamburg in July, linksunten was a platform for extensive discussions about protest activities and tactics. It also introduced a Twitter-like messaging service. Since then, politicians have been calling for the Hamburg social centre “Rote Flora” to be shut down.
The current annual report of the German political spy agency describes it like this:
“'linksunten.indymedia' has become the most important medium of violent left extremism. For years it has offered a forum for reports about extreme left-wing agitation and criminal activity, mostly without distancing itself.”
The authorities are treating the web site as a ‘society’, which enables them to enforce the shutdown notice. In how far this construct will stand up in court remains to be seen.
The take-down is also to be seen in the context of the upcoming federal election on 24 September. De Maizière told media in the aftermath of the G20 protest that Germany needed “a hard line against left-wing extremism, as well as right-wing extremism.”
The German authorities have illegalised the linksunten indymedia ‘society’, which according to the interior minister consist of three people, but have not (yet) laid charges against anyone. Use of the linksunten logo is also illegal.
A bit of history and context
The global indymedia network grew out of the “Independent Media Centre” that was established during the “Battle of Seattle”, the protests against the WTO meeting in Seattle in 1999, where activists created their own news medium to counter the mainstream media reports. With indymedia, activists had an open posting platform where they could tell their side of the story. Indymedia Aotearoa was started along with many other regional indymedia collectives in the early 2000s.
Since then the internet has evolved and now most activist groups have their own blogs, facebook pages and twitter accounts, making open posting platforms less relevant. But there is still one important difference, and this difference is why the German authorities are shutting down linksunten: unlike the commercial offerings from google and facebook which insist on collecting extensive information from their users, indymedia allows anonymous posts. This means that while the state authorities can of course read everything that is posted, they have a hard time finding out details about the poster. Most countries now have legislation that allows the state to collect user accounts from providers like facebook and twitter, often without even a warrant, but the same cannot be done with indymedia sites because indymedia collects no user information (even those sites that require a user account collect only an email address and no further personal information). That is why the state is shutting down an indymedia site and not facebook.
It also explains why the German authorities have made no attempt to contact linksunten indymedia to have certain posts removed that they consider unlawful – the state is not so much interested in what is posted, it is interested in who posts it.
How real this is, is demonstrated clearly in the US administration’s recent request to obtain the details of anyone who had visited the web site disruptJ20.org which was used to advertise protests against Donald Trump’s inauguration.
And there is a wider context here. For a number of years, German politicians have been pushing the “extremism theory”, which equates left-wing with right-wing ‘extremism’ and proclaims to condemn both equally. The completely different nature and intent of a riot against a capitalist head-of-state meeting and firebombing a refugee hostel is deliberately ignored. This then paves the way for the mainstreaming of right-wing populists. Donald Trump’s statement regarding the killing of an anti-fascist protester at a neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, in which he claimed that there was violence “on all sides” falls into the same category. The take-down of linksunten is a consequence of this ‘theory’.
For a good write-up of linksunten and its history, see https://crimethinc.com/2017/08/25/german-government-shuts-down-indymedia-another-step-towards-worldwide-totalitarianism-1