Back in 1999, Seattle-based activists formed the communication collective Riseup.net. 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 August Riseup 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.