“Information disorder was not enough”:

Radical Technology Collectives as sustainable anti-surveillance efforts

maxigas @ SSNBCN, May 23nd, 2016

Surveillance as a problem

Empirical situation

Problem: Information assymetry

  • Demand: Transparency of powerful people and institutions
  • Demand: Obscurity of individuals and social movements

→ Goes against systemic requirements of capital accumulation (exploitation) and social peace (control).

Framing surveillance

Limitations of liberal framing:

  • Human rights framework is insufficient
  • Privacy as a concept is obsolete
  • Historical analysis lacking

→ RTCs respond tactically from anarchist perspective.

Why tactical media?

Social movement studies is a useless discipline:

  • Prefiguration?
  • Resource mobilisation?
  • Emancipation (Milan 2009)?

→ The point is to keep people out of jail.

Radical Technology Collectives


Older than a decade:

  1. Riseup (US/global)
  2. Autistici/Inventati (IT/global)
  3. Poivron (FR)
  4. PUSCII (NL)
  5. Nadir (DE)
  • Etc.: Aktivix (UK), Sindominio (ES), Espiv (GR)…

→ Survived the alter-globalisation movement.


By activists for activists:

  • Anarchist/autonomous
  • Self-organised
  • Volunteer
  • Gratis
  • Free software
  • (Local)

Based on solidarity, not business model!


Infrastructure as politics:

  • Webhosting (blogfarm, Drupal farm, custom…)
  • Mailbox (webmail, IMAP…)
  • Chat (XMPP/Jabber, IRC…)
  • Filesharing (one-click hosting, cloud…)
  • Pads (Etherpad lite/groups…)
  • Misc. (VPN, social networking, virtual machines…)

→ Replicating media monopolies.

Strategic nexus

Social conflicts at the intersection of:

  • political
  • technical
  • legal


→ Privileged site of investigation.



Cycle of struggles ~ 1999 → 2006:

  • Spawn many collectives
  • Indymedia: largest volunteer group worldwide
  • Most groups disperse at cycle end

→ Only infrastructural movements remain.


Commercial privacy providers:

  1. Lavabit (~Snowden)
  2. Silent Circle (~Schneider)

→ Closed due to pressure from authorities in 2013.

ps: Apple is broken too…


Peer-to-peer decentralised software:

  • Technology without community
  • Liberal ontology (individuals as islands)
  • Architectural problems (Barocas et al. 2013)
  • Trust issues

→ Cacophony of untested solutions which are hard to socialise.


How to provide resilient privacy?

  • Couple ideology and technology
  • Never trust the state & capital
  • Take security seriously
  • Adopt a conservative approach
  • Develop trust b/w users & admins
  • Meet on the streets!

→ Ideology counts in technology (Söderberg 2011).



Email address:


Slides URL:


Website URL:



The first part of the title was taken from the slogan of the Noblogs platform, which is a blog farm maintained by the Autistici/Inventati collective.

Barocas, Solon, Seda Gürses, Arvind Narayanan, and Vincent Toubiana. 2013. “Unlikely Outcomes? A Distributed Discussion on the Prospects and Promise of Decentralized Personal Data Architectures.” In Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives, ed. Geert Lovink and Miriam Rasch. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures.

Milan, Stefania. 2009. “Stealing the Fire: A Study of Emancipatory Practices in the Field of Communication.” PhD thesis, Florence: European University Institute; Phd dissertation.

Söderberg, Johan. 2011. “Free Software to Open Hardware: Critical Theory on the Frontiers of Hacking.” PhD thesis, Göteborg: Science; Technology Studies, Department of Sociology, University of Gothenburg.