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[liberationtech] Inside the Effort to Crowdfund NSA-Proof Email and Chat Services | Motherboard

Yosem Companys companys at
Wed Sep 11 15:29:15 PDT 2013

Back in 1999, Seattle-based activists formed the communication
collective The site's email and chat services, among other
tools, soon offered dissidents a means of encrypted communication
essential to their work. Fourteen years later, Riseup is still going
strong. In fact, they've been fighting the US state surveillance
apparatus longer than most people have been aware of the NSA's
shenanigans. Now, the collective is hoping to expand, given the gross
privacy transgressions of the NSA and US government as a whole.

"What surveillance really is, at its root, is a highly effective form
of social control," reads an AugustRiseup newsletter. "The knowledge
of always being watched changes our behavior and stifles dissent. The
inability to associate secretly means there is no longer any
possibility for free association. The inability to whisper means there
is no longer any speech that is truly free of coercion, real or
implied. Most profoundly, pervasive surveillance threatens to
eliminate the most vital element of both democracy and social
movements: the mental space for people to form dissenting and
unpopular views."

The impetus behind the project is Riseup's struggle to keep up with
new user demand for an email service that doesn't log IP addresses,
sell data to third parties, or hand data over to the NSA. Riseup will
also be able to expand its considerable anonymous emailing lists,
which features nearly 6 million subscribers spread across 14,000
lists. Their Virtual Private Network (VPN), which allows users to
securely connect to the internet as a whole, will also be made more
robust. What Riseup can't do is offer its users an anonymous browsing
experience, but that's not their aim.

To offer Riseup to more users, Free Press's Joshua Levy, Elizabeth
Stark (an open internet advocate who has taught at Stanford and Yale),
as well as others at the StopWatching.Us campaign (backed by Mozilla)
recently launched an Indiegogo crowd-funding effort on behalf of the
group. They hope to raise $10,000 in order to provide Riseup—which is
run by volunteers—with a new server, hardware, and software
capabilities. In short, they want to expand their reach so that
internet users have another alternative to email services such as
Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail.

To get a clearer picture of what StopWatching.Us and Riseup are doing,
I spoke with Levy, Stark, and an anonymous Riseup collective member.
We talked about how the crowdfunding money will be spent; how Riseup
helps users avoid NSA, as well as state and local repression; and why,
contrary to reports, the Tor Browser bundle is still the best option
for anonymous, encrypted browsing. (As of today, the crowdfunding
campaign reached it's $10,000 goal, but the organizers are hoping to
exceed that total by a good margin.)


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