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The Attempt to Shutdown UK Indymedia

Sheffield Indymedia | 29.04.2011 01:14 | Indymedia | Sheffield

UPDATE: The attempted shutdown took place, see archive.indymedia.org.uk, it was announced by IMC London and has been critiqued, but the lists don't appear to have been shutdown yet. Scotland Indymedia blocked the shutdown for 3 weeks (until they can discuss it face to face).

Some people involved with UK Indymedia have been talking about shutting down the UK IMC site for years [1], for a variety of reasons; an openly declared disillusionment with the original model of open publishing and wanting to move to pre-moderated newswires which don't allow comments on articles [2], a dislike of the political content that is carried on the UK site [3]; a desire to see the traffic, which the UK site gets, redirected to regional IMC sites [4] and perhaps other motivations. Those wanting the site shutdown have also blocked improvements being made to the UK Indymedia site [5].

However the activists who have been maintaining the UK IMC site are still committed to running a UK-wide Indymedia open newswire and are not prepared to see the UK Indymedia site shutdown. They believe that the UK Indymedia newswire provides a valuable service for articles and comments and it should be maintained. These activists are also committed to running UK Indymedia in a transparent and open manner and in the spirit of the initial Independent Media Centre. Prior to the UK Indymedia Network meeting in Bradford in December 2010 this group of IMC UK admins applied to the global New IMC process as an autonomous collective with a wish to continue running the UK Indymedia site. Clearly the UK Indymedia site isn't a New IMC, it's been going for a decade (the early IMC UK story is covered in the BeTheMedia article about the impending shutdown), the application was made to make it clear that there was a group of activists who were running and wanted to continue running, the IMC UK site, but with autonomy from the activists running the other Indymedia sites in the UK. The activists running the other Indymedia sites in the UK wanted to take the indymedia.org.uk domain away from the UK Indymedia site and point it to the BeTheMedia site (at the time it was all.indymedia.org.uk, it has subsequently been renamed).

Articles: I'm glad Indymedia UK is still here! | What's up with UK Indymedia? | Ode to IMC UK: keep it going.... | Britain's Left Defeats Itself Again | IMC UK Shut Down #IMCUKshutdown

Features: The 1st May 2011 UK Indymedia Network Fork

Elsewhere: SchNEWS: Indymedia: From the Rubble of Double Trouble

"The report of my death was an exaggeration"
"The report of my death was an exaggeration"


This support for the UK Indymedia site was further expressed at the December 2010 Bradford meeting, by the people running the site, in a statement that was read out at the meeting [6]:

We are a group of long term Indymedia activists who have been helping run and maintain the UK Indymedia site for many years, we include activists from Wales, Scotland and England.

Indymedia UK covers global topics and parts of the UK not covered by other IMC sites in the UK, via the open newswire and we support this and want to continue doing this.

Disputes in the UK Network around the approach to controversial issues have crystallized into two approaches for dealing with them. We believe that the use of critical thinking, reason and evidence based research and source checking is the best approach, rather than simply censoring these topics.

Our aim is to maintain an open channel for information in a world where the ruling class controls the main flows of information via the corporate media, public relations companies and the like.

One aspect of the open publishing model, which was not foreseen, was the extent to which it could be used and abused for the purposes of disinformation. Our approach to this is not to close down open publishing but to take active steps to remove disinformation and expose the tactics and politics of those behind it.

Indymedia is not only a journal of the revolution, it is part of the terrain that the Empire's information war is being fought across.

With the convergence of the crises, which gravely threaten the existence of life on earth, climate change, Peak Oil, resource depletion, Imperial wars, Fascism, ecological and economic collapse and starvation, a radical alternative future is urgently needed, now more than ever. We want to help to enable humanity steer a course to a future of co-operation, peace, sustainability, equality, autonomy and non-hierarchical community.

We are committed to non-hierarchical, consensus based decision making. We wish to go through the New IMC process in order that we can be globally recognised as an autonomous collective, with our own independent site, UK Indymedia, http://www.indymedia.org.uk/.

The UK Indymedia sites is, and has for many years, been well used by activists both nationally and internationally, to circulate reports, news, analysis, media and information that the corporate media doesn't cover. People know where to find UK Indymedia, it's at www.indymedia.org.uk, we hold with Tim Berners-Lee, that "Cool URI's don't change" and believe the UK Indymedia site should remain on its current domains, indymedia.org.uk, www.indymedia.org.uk and uk.indymedia.org. We wish to be listed in the cities list as simply uk, rather than united kingdom. We think the UK Network should have it's own entry in the cities list. We wish to remain in and participate in the UK Network as a peer of the other collectives.

We are open and welcoming to new and existing activists who wish to join our collective on the basis on which it was founded.

Our Mission Statment and Editorial Guidelines only differ from the existing UK Indymedia ones in so far as references to "United Kollectives" have been replaced with references to "UK Indymedia".

When we fully gain our autonomy we wish to roll out long developed improvements to the UK Indymedia site.

Sheffield Indymedia also took the following proposal to the Bradford Meeting but this was ignored and not discussed (the Drupal aggregator is the BeTheMedia site):

  1. The Drupal aggregator should be called IMC UK Network, since it's the site of the UK Network, and it should be listed in the global cities list (which all IMC sites carry) as UK Network.
  2. The Drupal aggregator should use a domain name which isn't currently in use, eg:
    • network.indymedia.org.uk
    • net.indymedia.org.uk
    • nwk.indymedia.org.uk
    • uknet.indymedia.org
  3. All UK IMC collectives which are members of the IMC UK Network should be asked to have a prominent link to the UK Network site and be asked to carry a feature article about the launch of the IMC UK Network.
  4. The IMC UK Network site should carry the Sheffield and UK open newswire feeds and the Alt-Sheff's iCal Calendar events feed.
  5. Northern IMC's Proposal about the Docs pages, (to remove the two pages and their history from the server at docs.indymedia.org) is rejected. It was felt that the questions and accusations raised have never been answered, and in the interests of openness it was best to leave the story online.

Following a long discussion, at the meeting in Bradford, a proposal from Yossarian, to divide UK Indymedia, was agreed as a decision to fork the project into a.indymedia.org and b.indymedia.org. The agreement stipulated that neither group could use UK in their name and that on the 1st May 2011 the UK Indymedia site would be frozen and archived at indymedia.org.uk with a splash page pointing to a.indymedia.org and b.indymedia.org [7]. Support for the a.indymedia.org group, from the b.indymedia.org group, in getting the a.indymedia.org sub-domain for running the continuation of the UK IMC site on was promised [8]. A couple of days after the Bradford meeting Sheffield Indymedia published a feature article about it, UK Indymedia to Fork on 1st May 2011.

Subsequent to the meeting in Bradford the a.indymedia.org group, who wish to continue to run a UK-wide Indymedia open newswire, agreed to call themselves Mayday Indymedia and applied to the global New IMC list for the mayday.indymedia.org sub-domain for the site [9]. A great deal of time was spent on this application in meetings and on writing documentation. The b.indymedia.org group has set up BeTheMedia and haven't applied for an indymedia.org sub-domain.

However the global Indymedia working group, who's job it is to propose new IMC's to be approved globally, was blocked from proposing Mayday by Bart from Linksunten IMC in Germany [10]. The main justification for Bart's block is that he considers that UK Indymedia has "betrayed" [11] it's users by tracking abuse of the site by the UK state — the Police posts from Gateways 202 and 303 [12]. Bart appears to consider that genuine activists might have been using the secure Government gateways and that they deserve to have their anonymity preserved [13]. Mayday Indymedia has committed to abide by the new point 4 of the the global Indymedia draft Principles of Unity which was recently proposed by Bart on behalf Linksunten IMC :

4. All IMCs, based upon the trust of their contributors and readers, shall utilize open web based publishing, allowing individuals, groups and organizations to express their views, anonymously if desired. To ensure privacy and anonymity, the logging of information about users shall be kept to the minimum. The logging of internet protocol (IP) information about users shall be kept to the minimum necessary to maintain control over the server (i.e. in the event of an attack). In the event that logging is necessary, details of the logging shall be made publicly accessible, including duration of logging, what information was stored, and actions taken as result of the logging. Collectives are encouraged to have a public policy on IP logging.

Sheffield Indymedia considers that tracking the attacks from the UK state to be justified self-defence which falls within the provisions of the above Point of Unity, the site was under attack. The posts from the Government IP addresses have stopped since the abuse has been exposed. Sheffield Indymedia long argued that the abuse from the UK state should be exposed, but exposing it was blocked by London and Northern Indymedia.

Linksunten IMC has also tried to get the de.indymedia.org / germany.indymedia.org sub-domains taken away from the Indymedia Germany site and a splash page put up in it's place, this proposal was rejected by Germany Indymedia and Indymedia Buenos Aires and blocked by Indymedia Switzerland.

Since the global Indymedia network has been unable to provide mayday.indymedia.org as a sub-domain for the UK site to move to and the indication that, despite the UK site not having a *.indymedia.org sub-domain to move to, there is going to be an attempt to shutdown the UK Indymedia open publishing and email lists on 1st May 2011, a block to the status quo being changed has been agreed by Mayday, Birmingham and Sheffield. Mayday Indymedia has sent the following statement to the global IMC process list about the situation:

We are, in effect, the stewards of the UK Indymedia open-posting newswire, we stated this at the UK Network meeting in Bradford in December 2010. This service is threatened by the way the Bradford agreement to fork the site is being interpreted by the BeTheMedia group (B) and within New IMC. We ask the global network to suspend any working-group actions that would interfere with our ability to operate the site until the issues are resolved, specifically the shutting down of lists or alterations to the DNS or any alteration the uk entry in the global cities list — we would like the current status quo to be maintained until the agreement can be completed properly.

Some points we would like to make about the current situation:

1) We are all long standing Indymedia volunteers.

2) Our primary aim is to run an Indymedia website for the UK that provides an open-posting newswire; we have demonstrated our commitment to this aim.

3) We have compromised by agreeing to move to a new Indymedia domain even though this will be disruptive for site users.

4) B group is claiming there was consensus on forking and going ahead with all changes on 1 May irrespective of our status at that time, we dispute this, the agreement was based on a.indymedia.org and b.indymedia.org — our understanding of the consensus was that the fork depended on us having an indymedia.org sub-domain to move to. If B group don't want an indymedia.org sub-domain that's fine, but our position is that we do, and at the Bradford meeting we agreed to the fork on that basis.

5) We are keen to proceed with the fork once we have achieved new IMC status.

6) We think forcing the site to move outside of Indymedia is unreasonable.

7) This can be sorted out fairly quickly — we can work together to resolve the New IMC issues — get New IMC status and an indymedia.org sub-domain and fork. However, a hold should be put on changes to the status quo to allow the New IMC process to progress.

8) We don't think mass expulsions from Indymedia is in the "spirit of Indymedia" — in addition to the UK newswire the indymedia.org.uk site hosts several regional IMC's.

9) There is nothing preventing group B from launching their new site and advertising it on UK Indymedia in the meantime.

However because Mayday, Brimingham and Sheffield haven't been through the global New IMC process it has been stated by Bart, a moderator of the global process list, that these Indymedia collectives have no say in global decisions and cannot block the shutting down of the imc-uk-* email lists. Furthermore Bart is trying to get the rules of the New IMC list changed so that New IMC's can't post directly to the list, apparently because of the Mayday and Sheffield New IMC applications. He has also started rejecting emails to the global process list which point out that there is not a consensus in the UK for a shutdown, stating that this is a internal collectives' dispute and therefore has no place on the global process list, even though the global process list is where the decision about shutting down the UK IMC lists is to be made.

Sheffield Indymedia applied to the global New IMC process list in January 2011 and a process, which can be completed in a fortnight, has made no progress whatsoever. This is why the Mayday statement refers to "mass expulsions from Indymedia" — Sheffield Indymedia has been up and running since 2003, it's been an eventful 8 years which has included raids by the Police and invasions by the EDL. Concerns have been raised on the global New IMC list over two wiki documents from Sheffield, Some Notes about IMC Northern and IMC UK Disinformation Documentation, these are the two documents refered to in the last point of the Sheffield proposal which was taken to the Bradford Indymedia meeting, the Bradford meeting agreed "We will not worry about docs.indymedia.org".

What will happen next is unclear, but if there are attempts made to shut-down the UK Indymedia newswire or the UK Indymedia lists without agreement then the status quo, which should apply when there is not consensus, would have been broken and point 6 of the global Indymedia draft Principles of Unity would have been ignored:

6. All IMC's recognize the importance of process to social change and are committed to the development of non-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian relationships, from interpersonal relationships to group dynamics. Therefore, shall organize themselves collectively and be committed to the principle of consensus decision making and the development of a direct, participatory democratic process that is transparent to its membership.

As would this aspect of the global decision making guide:

Everyone's opinion counts. Everyone belongs to some kind of minority. And every minority has particular concerns or needs that want to be respected, no matter what the majority opinion. It shall be the network's aim to promote this understanding and eliminate oldfashioned concepts of minority exclusion, top-to-bottom structures of decision making and bottom-to-top allocation of responsibility.

If the UK Indymedia open publishing newswire is shutdown without agreement then Sheffield Indymedia will support whatever necessary steps that have to be taken to keep the newswire up and running — it's a vital resource for the UK activist community and we don't want it shutdown.

Footnotes

[1] For example at the 2008 UK Indymedia Network meeting in London there was "talk of shutting down", the "Italian Option" was cited as an example to follow — italy.indymedia.org shutdown for a number of years (subsequently to it being used as a "good example", by those wanting a shutdown, italy.indymedia.org has been recreated as an aggregation site using the same content management system as UK Indymedia). In June 2010 a proposal to "stop the indymedia front page for 6 months" was made. Northen Indymedia was founded on the basis of "The United Kollectives are dead, long live the autonomous IMC’s" and their outreach material contained "IMC Northern feels that the UK experiment has failed" and Jimdog from IMC Northern has supported disinformation attacking UK Indymedia.

[2] The London and Northern Indymedia sites don't allow comments to be posted to articles, only "additions" can be posted to some articles, this appears to go against the Indymedia Global FAQ, "If you disagree with the content of a particular article that someone has posted on Indymedia, you may comment on the article through the "add your own comments" link at the bottom of each post." The Northern Indymedia Editorial Guidelines, "restrict additions to providing factual information relevant to the particular item being added to. Remember that this is a news medium, not a discussion forum."

[3] The debates on the imc-uk-moderation list about the content of the open newswire often spilled over into debates about features in which the politically differences were never properly discussed. Some of the most controversial examples of this follow.

One example was the London and Glasgow: Brown's 'Bombs'? feature article, this was blocked after it had been published, essentially for straying into the relm of 'realpolitiks'. The feature was allowed back up after a section about a rally, which was addressed by the police, was added.

A feature article, Indymedia UK and the Atzmon-Greenstein affair was blocked from the UK front page, for more on this see, the wiki page about the case and the Saying NO to the hunters of Atzmon blog.

There has also been a tendency to cave in to legal threats when there was clearly no need to, an article from Craig Murray was removed, for a while, after a threat, a spoof of The Metro was pulled after a bogus threat. There also seems to have been a desire to not confront the state, which is illustrated by the attempts to keep the Government posts from the secure intranet gateways, 202 and 303, a secret, see footnote [13].

Another example is the issue of 9/11, in 2006 a feature article about a 9/11 protest in London was blocked from being published on the the UK front page, see the list discussion but it was published on Sheffield Indymedia. In April 2007 Yossarian said, "If the core of the project has shifted towards a 9/11 conspiracy-wire... then I'll very unhappily pack up six years of steady work and find another project.". Jimdog from IMC Northern said in June 2010 "I propose there is a blanket ban on all further 9/11 truth articles".

[4] See for example Yossarian's concerns about the Google ranking of the regional sites compared to the UK site in June 2010, "the indymedia.org.uk site with its ten year history and millions of inbound links, will be seen by search engines as the "main" source for any articles, not the originating site (London, Bristol, Northern, or Notts)" and a comment from July 2010 (Mir is the content management system which runs UK Indymedia), "There are other collectives who have started their own non- mir sites and feel that Mir is a blockage to the effectiveness of these new non-mir sites and want to radically change indymedia.org.uk to stop these blockage and flow of web traffic to their sites. This is the general positions of London and Northern, but some people are really pushing this and being confrontational about it. Jim Dog, Yoss being the most active."

[5] The redesign agreed in Nottingham in 2008 (see the static mock-up produced for the meeting), has been implemented at a template level (see the working demo site), but these improvements have been blocked from being deployed, see for example Jimdogs's email from June2010, "I wish to block any further changes being made".

[6] This statement, which had previously agreed, by those in support of UK Indymedia open publishing, was read out at the Bradford 2010 UK IMC meeting.

[7] See the notes of the UK Indymedia meeting held in Bradford in December 2011.

[8] See this email, "statements were made by members of London imc along the lines of 'we had better make sure we help you get through new-imc so the fork can go ahead'. These statements were made both before and after the fork was agreed - in other words, it was agreed on this basis."

[9] See the documentation of the Mayday New IMC application.

[10] See the emails from Bart on 19th April 2011 and 21st April 2011.

[11] See for example this email from Bart.

[12] See the Sheffield Indymedia feature article, Gateway 303: Police Disinformation on UK Indymedia.

[13] Bart has defended the right to anonomity for the posts from the UK Governments secure intranet exit nodes, gateway-303.energis.gsi.gov.uk and gateway-202.energis.gsi.gov.uk, on 19th April 2011 he said, "It may be true that some or even all of the articles and comments that have been flagged by the UK MIR system have been written by the police or other government agencies in order to provoke readers of Indymedia UK, to authorise repressive measures or to serve as proofs in court trials. But how can you be sure that all of them have been written by agents provocateurs?" and on the 21st April, "not all postings coming from the 303 network necessarily originate from agents provocateurs". A Full list of Gateway 303 and 202 posts to IMC UK has been posted to Sheffield Indymedia.

Sheffield Indymedia
- e-mail: sheffield@indymedia.org
- Homepage: http://sheffield.indymedia.org.uk/

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Comments

Hide the following 18 comments

Sorry to hear all this

29.04.2011 08:55

Wow sorry to hear all the details of these disagreements, had to read it twice to try to understand what's happened. It would be a tragedy if the legacy, archives and service of a UK Indymedia site disappeared from the internet. C'mon guys please try to sort out a solution quickly, in the "spirit of Indymedia"

C'mon Guise


or is it a Hostile Takeover by a minority splinter group

29.04.2011 13:42

For the sake of balanced reporting, I think it's reasonable to try to present the other side of this story.

Yes, it's sad that there have been divisions in uk indymedia for year.

Actually the aggregated site that's now at bethemedia.org.uk was originally planned as a redesign and improvement to the current uk site, and was created by a uk indymedia working group with the approval of uk indymedia. Sadly this was subsequently blocked by, well, some other uk indymedia folks that decided they'd prefer to keep the current (old) system.

Now, those same people seem to be threatening to take over the uk site despite agreeing in December that it would be closed and the groups would fork into two separate projects rather than attempt to work together any longer. That meeting was facilitated by the respected independent group, Seeds for Change.

Let me reassure everyone that as far as I know, the archive will of course be maintained. This is a valuable shared history and will be treated as such. The closing of publishing on uk indymedia is merely a sad but necessary first step in moving forward from the awful stalemate that have become indymedia uk in the last few years.


imc-uk volunteer


Consensus

29.04.2011 21:45


This is about consensus decision making, In consensus decision making you can't ignore the minority. Here the minority have been marginalised and their voice ignored

38 Brixton Rd


Bad news

01.05.2011 12:44

You're watching the next step in the death of indymedia.

bad news


What a rabble that article was

01.05.2011 13:10

Do you really think activists who read that rubbish are going to think there is any sanity among the people who have taken over this site. It must have been written by someone on the verge of a breakdown, i feel very sorry for them. It is sign of the current state of alternative media that this has been allowed to happen.

Can sanity come back and the site be run by all the people? Could be too late for that. I for one will not use this site anymore as i am uncomfortable with the way it has been taken over by people who write that kind of 9/11 type trash.

Time for a new project to start.

banana flavor


note to IMC users

01.05.2011 13:33

[I write as an IMCer, but in a personal capacity, not representing any regional or national collective.]

Please bear in mind there are some very entrenched and opinionated people on both sides of this conflict, and they have very different interpretations of what has happened, based on huge amounts of mistrust.

There are also a significant number of us who have not taken sides, and do not want to take sides.

If you are interested in finding out more, I recommend reading mailing list archives, which are publicly accessible, and making your own mind up, rather than accepting at face value what either side is telling you.This would make an OK starting point:
 http://lists.indymedia.org/pipermail/imc-uk-process

But actually, my personal advice is not to waste your time reading up on the details - you will probably end up feeling drained and wondering why you bothered, because there isn't any straightforward explanation or narrative, just a horrible mess of mistrust and disrespect.

an IMCer


Mutual Distrust

01.05.2011 16:06

It seems to Medawar, that all of the distrust and suspicion springs from SHAC and those who want Indymedia to be a SHAC mouthpiece, versus those who don't.

It's becoming absurd.

Medawar


Indy wars?

01.05.2011 16:53

Firstly, I am not understanding this argument, worrying as it looks; it seems I am not amongst the initiates who understand what way indy works - or works not, and all the conflicts of which I haven't got a clue. I have been repeatedly told indymedia is OUR media, happy with that, I had fun posting lots of no borders stuff on it, and I was also told that indy is it not a SERVICE, we are all involved... if we are all involved we should ALL have a say in how indy is run. Sorry I don't understand half of the half of the half of all this. Would it be possible that the rest of us 'service users' gets at least a clearer explanation?

Chiara


What split?

01.05.2011 21:06

Seems like national ejected from local, and forced to be called maydaymedia, and indymedia got a new local first posting method through bethemedia. Hardly a revolution.

Question:

Does this mean national is not indypendant?

pinkyandperky


What split?

01.05.2011 21:20

So this appears to be mirrored at maydaymedia? Nope, it is a separate image!!

So the question then becomes uk.indymedia or maydaymedia so what's the politics of the moderation teams?

Any advice?

pinkyandperky


indymedia domain

02.05.2011 08:05

ooops my comment has disappeared maybe somewhere in the tech maize.

I was looking a little bit back in the web and list archives and what I find important is that the inymedia.org.uk domain was only used as the main DNS for the MIR site from June 2003 onwards, when the move was made from one technical system to the one still used now. Beforehand, the main URL was uk.indymedia.org . So the indymedia.org.uk domain has always been associated with primarily this website.

tooscaredtosay


Medawar = pro animal abuse troll

02.05.2011 09:35

Medawar (see previous comment) is a pro animal abuse troll who posts at the pro Huntingdon Life Sciences site shacwatch, whose authors come from behind the infamous government Gateway 303.

That's why he is obsessed with linking the Indymedia wrangling to animal rights, when it has absolutely nothing to do with it.

anon


bethemedia looks like one of those spam aggregator sites

02.05.2011 09:47

I'm not sure I like the idea of  http://bethemedia.org.uk not having comments and just aggregating news from other sites.

It ends up looking just like one of those spammy link farm aggregator sites you see in Google search results all the time.

And the main reason I read Indymedia is for the comments - that is where you get all the interesting information.

What does need to change on Indymedia though, is the way comments are moderated, to cut down on the trolls and state shit-stirring. Some kind of reputation-based system, where the authors' posts and comments can be (optionally) linked to previous ones, so we can judge people and comments by their overall history rather than just individually.

Self-moderation would be ideal, as long as it can't be hijacked by floods of statist trolls. So us as users would mark up or down posts or comments, and the weight our marking gets is based on how trustworthy we are as users in the past.

anon


I can't believe this

02.05.2011 17:15

For fucks sake, get a grip people.

Be The Media - Mayday Media - Judean Popular Front - who gives a shit what you are called.

Indymedia is bigger than your pathetic power struggle. If you can't run the site give it to some group who can.

Londoner


@londoner

02.05.2011 19:12

you're damn right, grow up people, wtf is the bradford consensus? I couldn't give a fuck about this squabble. The whole time you guys fight out your petty squabbles shit isn't getting done sort it out, knobheads.

sick of it


what happened?

02.05.2011 22:36

so the project forked into two sites:

 http://www.bethemedia.org.uk/

and

 http://www.indymedia.org.uk/

and it got archived on the date of the fork:

 http://archive.indymedia.org.uk/

seems a fair enough outcome to me

both lots can now do their own thing in an autonomous manner and nobody got expelled from indymedia

well done to the people who worked out and implemented this solution, it seems like the best outcome, one that enables this great resource, uk indymedia, to continue!

long live uk indymedia!

bikr


'Closure' educationathon

03.05.2011 10:55

Respect to all, long life with sunshine.

mayday excursion


Found a great article

04.05.2011 09:20

This is from a outside supporter of Indymedia who doesn't appear to be in any side of the split and tellts it like it is in not too many words:

Tuesday, 3 May 2011
Britain's Left Defeats Itself Again.
On November 30th 1999 thousands of anti-capitalist/globalisation activists gathered in Seattle, USA to protest against and successfully shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). A large part of their grievance was that the WTO was effectively operating in secret with no reporting of the decisions it was making and the effect those decisions were having across the world. So by way of a solution a group of activists set up the Independent Media Centre or "Indymedia" for short. The idea was create a network of un-moderated, open publishing websites so people from all over the world could share news about the decisions being made in the name of globalisation and the actions that were being taken to protest against them. The Independent Media Centre was probably one of the most successful ideas to come out of the Seattle protests and there are now 180 Indymedia sites across the world in places as diverse as Japan, Israel, Kenya and Burma making Indymedia the blueprint for the sort of "Citizen Journalism" that's become so fashionable recently.

In the UK Indymedia has been particularly successful with 11 regional sites publishing local news and a national site that gathers up all the news from the regional sites and adds to it international news. Although as always with open publishing the quality is patchy at best a lot of what is published on the UK national site is so high quality that it has begun to be used by the mainstream media as a wire service alongside Associated Press and Reuters. In fact a lot of the stories you may have read in national newspapers, especially the ones about Climate Camp and Mark Kennedy - the undercover policeman, have been lifted straight from Indymedia and then re-published with minimal editing.

Obviously this free dissemination of uncensored news coupled with the fact that the un-moderated, anonymous open publishing model makes it nearly impossible for the collective that runs the site to be held legally liable for it's content means that Indymedia is hated by the British authorities and there have been various attempts to shut it down over the years. These efforts have included multiple police raids and illegal seizure (read theft) of computer equipment but most recently have focused on police officers serving with a dedicated unit known as the "National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NECTU)" either posting articles calling for more moderation or articles that are so deeply offensive that they cause others to call for more moderation.

At around the time that all those undercover police officers were operating within the UK activist scene these calls for tighter moderation took hold among the Indymedia collective fuelled by the usual mix of paranoia, ego and passionately held political beliefs. Eventually this led to two distinct groups forming within the collective. One known as the Mayday collective wanted to keep Indymedia pretty much as it is while the other known as the BeTheMedia (BTM) collective wanted to shut down Indymedia completely and replace it with a tightly moderated, isolationist site that would focus on British news for British people. Bizarrely these two groups reached a consensus decision that on May 1st 2011 the UK Indymedia site would gradually be wound down and replaced by two new sites; Mayday and BeTheMedia.

When May 1st arrived the BTM group insisted that the Indymedia site be shutdown immediately. This went against the consensus decision so the Mayday group locked the BTM group out of the running of the site and kept it going. There is currently a three week suspension on the site shutdown to allow the factions to meet in person to try and solve their differences. I expect that the Indymedia site will remain open after that because if the BTM group want to go and do something different then the Internet is a big place so there's nothing stopping them and they don't need to shut down Indymedia to do it.

 http://watchitdie.blogspot.com/2011/05/britains-left-defeats-itself-again.html

Peter


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