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News :: Organizing
Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
30 Oct 2005
Modified: 11:49:39 PM
Often, large corporations with no legitimate purpose or wanted products engage in mass e-mail marketing to push their product. Sometimes, it's done by clunkering 'activist' organizations.
Boston Mobilization has been around in Boston for a long time and their history with the rest of Boston's activist community, as well as local community in general has been strenuous, at best. But that's not the focus of this story.

More recently, Boston Mobilization has resorted to harvesting e-mails for mass market spam. Since they use closed-source, properietary tools to do this, information on exactly how they collect e-mail addresses is secretive - how their pitch gets into your inbox is as unknowable as those dietpills that keep popping up. Then again, even if they had chosen to support free (anti-corporate, pro-community) software, their use of it is anything but ethical.

From appearances, Boston Mobolization has settled on Constant Contact (constantcontact.com), a "do-it-yourself E-mail Marketing" firm (READ: spam). This company specializes in mass e-mail marketing. Why an activist organization would use a commercial e-mail harvesting SPAM company instead any number of freely available actually DIY (instead of Pay-Us-To-Do-It) e-mail lists is telling. Their goal is not to communicate back and forth with members, something no one could fault them for. Rather it is to market their group. Somehow their corporate 'community based' activist goals fit in nicely in a corporate marketing campaign.

I can't say that I know how many people have recieved their SPAM in their inboxes. I know I have, and I know at least a half dozen other people have. What makes this most important for me is the blatant abuse of personal internet freedom that Boston Mobe is utilizing.

Since a cleve marketer always needs to know how effective they are, Constant Contact provides tools to track users use of e-mails. Thus everything from whether or not you read the e-mail, to what sites you've been to and what links you clink on in the e-mail are tracked. While there's no way of knowing what Boston Mobe does with this info, it is clear that they do collect it from Constant Contact's rs6.net server. Thanks to the lobbyist's-wet-dream Digital Millenium Copyright Act, any attempt to decode their tracker and the information it sends is illegal - even if it sends your very own private information!

Ultimately, you can get yourself of this list of theirs, just as you can cancel the individual ads for Viagra. But as more and more activist groups adopt the corporate model of advertising, it will become impossible to get yourself off of all of the ones that SPAM you, just like its impossible to get rid of ALL the Viagra ads.

Just like the oh-so-unlucky Nigerian prince who needs a helping hand, the corporatization of activism goes hand in hand with insincerity. With activist groups more concerned about membership and e-mail list sizes than democratic rights and human equity, and willing to invade on fellow activist's e-privacy, I'm starting to doubt the Internet's so called "promise of a democratic future".

[Boston IMC editors note: Boston Mobe was not contacted by the writers of this story, but in order to get the story straight, we contacted Eve Lyman who heads up the group.

"Nobody's names get harvested," said Lyman. "People on our email list are people that have communicated with Boston Mobe in one way or another. Occassionally someone gets on there that doesn't want to be and we just take them off."

"I use Constant Contact because I can send fancy e-mail newsletters with it. Our original list on rise-up did not accept HTML, so we switched." ]

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This has all the markings of an FBI post.
31 Oct 2005
As of late, I've been doing a lot of research into FBI operations to harass, neutralize and cause conflict between activists. In the process I've examined hundreds of FBI documents (interoffice communications within the FBI). The above article fits the FBI like a glove.

Let me make something clear, while it is possible that many of us would disagree with the means that various groups use to get their message out, this issue is not worthy of an ounce of concern. While Bush is murdering hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings, are we supposed invest our emotional energy and our time into an issue as unimportant as an activist group spamming?

During the 1960s and 1970s, the FBI sent out anonymous messages such as this via US Post. In fact, hundreds of such letters were sent out. The goal was usually to make it appear that activists were criticizing other activists. The hope was that this would cause splits, dissential, internal conflicts and loss of energy (through the waste of concern on unimportant matters).

The FBI never admits to these activities. Expect "shadow" to wax poetic about how he is an activist just trying to voice his opinion, but keep in mind that he is more likely than not an FBI shithead.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
yeah @ this stank like bull to me as well.

everybody gets on lists, everybody gets spam, wouldnt ya rather get activist spam than cokacola spam,? These groups WILL remove ya from thier list, so whats the problem? nottin. nuttin. nothing wrong with contacting a few hundred people to try to get out some heads to an event - if offended as to your inclusion, ya write em, they reply, ya clear it up like adults: end of story.

people are dying right now in Ma and everywhere across the globe: and somewhere right here in Boston, babies of every color/race/ gender identity/spiritual reality are going HUNGRY.
grump grump.. um, oh and happy halloween.
Peace
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
Word to that. Even if this isn't so well orchestrated, we still ought to focus on the real problems in the world. Even if activist groups are using the tools of corporations to fight them, maybe it's justified. I'd prefer we wee all 100% consequential in our beliefs, but we also need to worry about effectiveness. Why wait for a perfect world when we can make a better world now?

Shadow--if you want this group to use open src software, make suggest to them which proggies they should use or better yet develop something for them! :)
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
It is NOT OK to let slide the use (and thus implicit support) of bad technologies by supposedly genuine activist groups. Boston Mobe has other strikes against it, this just adds to their credibility gap.

And "@" or someone else posting as "@" also has a bit of a credibility gap when it comes to identifying alleged covert ops among local activists... but we REALLY don't want to start going there, right people?
Spot the cop
31 Oct 2005
Actually I can vouch that this article was written by a long time commited activisted in Boston.

Who should you be more wary of? I think the answer is obvious:

1) Someone who calls out a well known group on computer privacy violations, the same kinda shit that groups like the EFF and FSF have been working against for decades - even if maybe its not the most important issue.

2) Someone who goes online and declares that you should ignore people who point out computer privacy violations.

Hrmm...
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
The issue isn't free software vs proprietary software. The point with that was that this wasn't their only option, thus it was an intentional choice.

The issue IS that an activist group is paying a corporation to harvest e-mails and track their list subscribers activities online. Whenever there's news of the FBI doing this shit activists flip out, but when activists do it themselves its written off.

Oh and fuck you @. I hope everyone is level headed enough that even if you don't particularly think that the issue I raised is important, that someone who consistently uses this site to defend privacy violations is not who they say they are.
This reminds me of the FBI operation against the Black Panther Party
31 Oct 2005
In the early 1970s, the Black Panther Party had a newspaper with a very large national circulation. The FBI played various tricks, similar to the one above, to cut down on its circulation.

The issue of whether Boston Mobilization is spamming is really none of the business of the "people" complaining here about it. If it is effective then it is exactly what they should be doing.

Whatever "person" is complaining would also post complaints about Che Guevarra using non-union-made ammunition in the Cuban Revolution.

Revolutions are fought, more often than not, buy usurping the means of the oppressor and wielding it against the oppressor. I see no difference between hijacking government weapons and using them against the government and hijacking corporatist methods and using them against corporatists. It is efficient, cheap, and effective.

Regarding other activists being exposed as government agents, just because you continue to fall for their cover, doesn't mean the person who exposed them is wrong. It just means you continue to be duped.

Throughout the FBI's ongoing reign of terror against dissidents, FBI agents, informers, and infiltrators have wormed their way into virtually every activist organization. The most likely places to find them are in communications and security. Anyone on BAAM's newswire should scratch their heads and recall a "security culture" expert who has engaged in smearing activists, claiming one or another to be unstable and being an authority on whether one was a cop or not. This is a classic example of what the FBI does.
More Denial of the Real Issue
31 Oct 2005
Again, the issue IS NOT that they are using a corporate service. It's not that they are using non-union computers (or any other garbage like that). It's not that they are mimicking a corporate advertising model.

The sole issue, the only thing that matters is that they are VIOLATING THE PRIVACY of everyone that they spam.

I'm not going to bother responding anymore to you since you clearly are intent on putting words in my mouth and obfuscating their violation of privacy.
The real issues are fascism, war, exploitation...
31 Oct 2005
If shadow is interested in going to war with the left, then we know where he stands.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
I'm unclear as to the issue here.

What @ is talking about is a government DISINFORMATION campaign. Yet he hasn't even bothered to deny Shadow's allegations. Instead he is trying to justify them. How exactly is it disinformation if even you admit that he's teling the truth?
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
"They are mimicking a corporate advertising model" -so what?

Spam is a fairly harmless annoyance. Although we should all be concerned about the new invasions of privacy that have come with total information awareness, marketing is the least dangerous of them. I mean, the real problem comes when the FBI confiscates an organization’s records and harasses people who have responded to their solicitation.

MOBE is a fairly middle of the road organization, with an essentially top down structure. Members contribute their ideas but all decisions must ultimately be endorsed by Eve, their director, in order to be acted upon. This type of mass marketing should not be surprising to anyone. Some MOBE folks supported Kerry in the last election. These are not people standing against the corporate empire per se. They generally deal with specific issues, eschewing the adoption, or propagation of, any over-arching political philosophy. MOBE is basically geared toward engaging so-called liberally minded college students.
If this type of advertising upsets you, then you probably know little about the rest of MOBE's politics. They are not anti-establishment and don't claim to be.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
I think its pretty obvious that he objects mostly to the privacy violations and the e-mail tracking.
In COINTELPRO, content takes a back seat to effect.
31 Oct 2005
No doubt, close examination of any and all political movements, organizations, and individuals will uncover a list of mistakes, bad choices, flaws, political incorrectness, and other largely human defects. When none can be found, they can be manufactured. If I spent my energies focusing on what I don't like about each and every political movement, organization or individual, I'd spend my time bashing the people I should be thankful for.

There is no privacy on the web. If you're email is on their list and you find that fact threatening, then you haven't taken effective steps to keep it secret. If Boston Mobilization can get your email address (despite whatever efforts you have taken to keep it secret), then the FBI has it too.

No, I doubt call into question the possibility that such spamming may violate your privacy. What I call into question is whether this issue is of great importance compared to greater issues. I also call into question the motivation of provoking ill will towards an activist group by posting this criticism on a public venue regularly exploited by COINTELPRO. Why not contact Boston Mobilizatio privately? Why not talk the issue out with them in a forum not condusive to government instigation and provocation?

From a purely utilitarian point of view, given the absense of democratic control of the media, the benefit of spamming protest announcement probably outweighs the perceived cost in privacy in terms of social benefit.

I have no problem keeping off of Boston Mobilization's email list. Why? Because I've learned to control access to my email address. Once again, perhaps they've provided you with a service by informing you, unintentionally, that your email address is known and is designated as one of a person interested in dissent. If that causes you problems, take it as a nudge towards taking better care of your identity.

Finally, do you really think the FBI would be effective if their anonymous public disruptions were not believable or did not carry some level of shared concern? If, instead, the disruptive publication asserted the extra-terrestrials were taking over Boston Mobilization, do you think anyone would believe it or that it would be effective?

All I am trying to do is to alert you into looking beyond the surface of what you see posted and look into the deeper intent and consequences. Whether you decide to listen to my cautions is your own business.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
@, your ignoring the point like a cop
This Has All the Markings of Al Qaeda
31 Oct 2005
@ uses the same language as the people who claim from a bent paper clip that someone "has all the markings of" a lock-picking, communist-loving, islamo-fascist lesbian, or Al Qaeda, or Zarqawi, or whatever the fuck they want us to fear. it's so transparent that one wonders about the people who are paying to have the stuff made up and whether they realize what a cut-rate service they're getting for their trouble.

A simple web search on keywords in @'s posts will find you a slew, indeed, a long trail of absurd variations on a theme that are in at least one case most definitely libelous, and which, until recently, their target had not deigned to dignify with a response.

MOBE is about one person deciding what a bunch of others will do, and whom it will benefit, and also what they willsomeone to convince a bunch of other people not to do. What kind of anarchist goes out of his way to defend that? What kind of activist or even citizen would condone such tactics of dividing and conquering the working class? Especially when their efforts, like billy bragg's fascists are bound to lose.

And you know, it's getting easier to tell when you strike a nerve these days...
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
31 Oct 2005
Come on, folks. Yes, we need to critique each other. Yes, spam is annoying. But yes, there are far bigger issues, even among groups on the left! If Shadow wants to approach Mobe about this, he/she should. If others don't care, they should ignore it. But don't we have enough teapot-tempests to start calling each other cops about unwanted e-mail?

(And for the record, I'm on a lot of lists and have been working in Boston activism for many years, but don't get unwanted mail from Mobe.)
There you have it, more COINTELPRO
31 Oct 2005
Dozens of people use "@" as a name. The comments making claims about "@" posts are more FBI bullshit.
Check out this search...
31 Oct 2005
Check out this Google search on "@"

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%40&btnG=Google+Search

Now do you understand why people use "@"? It's not just to signify anarchy, it's beacuse it's difficult to search for.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
01 Nov 2005
While perhaps not the biggest or "most important" issue, violations of privacy should be responded to. Corporatations mine data, and they're freely giving it over to the government.

And it's pretty offensive to hire a corporate listserv service rather than to use an activist-community-based service.We've got all sorts of collectives doing good tech work, and if Boston Mobe has $15+ per month to spend on a listserv, wouldn't it be better for it to be recirculated within the activist community?
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
01 Nov 2005
hmmm...good points, good points all round.. lets see - maybe MOBE doesnt know much about FSF...?
that is interesating to think about, data mining...

I thought this idea still warrented some thought:
"...Why not contact Boston Mobilizatio privately? Why not talk the issue out with them in a forum not condusive to government instigation and provocation?...."

Yeah, this board _is_ an open book
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
03 Nov 2005
Please note, the Boston IMC editorial staff has recently added an ammendment to the body of this article.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
03 Nov 2005
As a Mobe Organizer I can tell you that they do not harvest emails! They only send mail to people on their list. This kind of bickering is completely uncalled for and distracts from the goals of the peace and justice movement.
Post to be ammended and hidden
04 Nov 2005
The following quote from a post above is a very serious allegation made about a specific individual whom @ has a long history of smearing:

<i>Another was acting as an agent provocateur for the Secret Service, sent materials to the LPC to frame them, and communicated with government agents on the streets during protests. That individual was placed into the system administrator's role at a Harvard Religious Studies Department, the perfect place to monitor Muslim student activities. His father works in the US Embassy in Nicaragua as CG. He directly and flagrantly passed information back and forth to a government run website designed to smear activitists. That was another direct hit on a government operative.</i>

That this is another in an ongoing series of libels should be abundantly clear to the Indymedia collective, since Indy has had experience with the same individual's rants and they have been previously hidden. That Indy goes out of its way on this thread to check facts on Boston Mobilization's use of commercial spamming software but not on a libelous personal attack after the thread has been alerted to the nature of the smear is a sign of selective enforcement of policy, and bad faith to boot. If the post accusing a known local activist of being a secret service (or is it CIA, Steve?) is not removed within 24 hours, stronger measures to gain compliance will be pursued.

Please consider this a request on the part of the affected party.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
04 Nov 2005
The only person using commercial spam technology is "litigious."
Would LitiGioUS like to be subpeoned?
04 Nov 2005
I'd be happy to subpeona all of the internet records of all machines he had access to while working for you know what university between 2001 and 2005. I would also be happy to subpeona all telephone calls from summer through winter of 2003, all personal internet communications, and so on.

Have fun.
To Concerned Party (See Above)
04 Nov 2005
I witnessed you, client of LitiGioUS, place a "bloodied" effigy of George Bush on the ground, in Harvard Square. You proceeded to stomp on Bush's bloodied head, repeatedly, for a very long time inviting all others present to stomp on his head. He declare, while doing this, that someone had warned you that doing this was illegal and that it would be reported to the Secret Service. Nevertheless, you goaded other protesters to join you in the name of the First Amendment. At that event, one police officer (already identified) was present.

You took photos and video and provided them to an harassment group which has law enforcement members (proven by identification of members (something you have not known until now)) and by their own admission. When you were making these videos, you said you would post them online as open source. Within hours they were modified and used as libel and harassment. The libelous harassers then said you provided them as open source.

I could go on and on.
Would Witness Like to Take the Stand?
05 Nov 2005
Whatever, Steve. You have an amazing talent for embellishing your recollection with all kinds of added details from your imagination. Such as the accusation that said individual attempted to poison you with a cup of coffee. That the individual appears in pictures holding expensive recording equipment when all you show are small fuzzy characters at crowded rallies. You claim said individual's $100 Sony boombox was some kind of Q-issue equipment only available to law enforcement. I could certainly go on. This is just the stuff that you've posted on every Indy site in the world. Newsflash--the world doesn't revolve around you, neither you nor I are the linchpin of, or I'd wager even an unwitting part of any secret operation, and if your contribution does not cease being the sowing of mistrust based on lies, we can only be left to conclude that that is indeed your main objective. Whether purposely or not, your effect is to provide a much more difficult environment for activists to work in. All this because an art video on the occupation of harvard square was hacked by some right wingnut and small portions used to mock you in a childish attack video that was just stupid. Grow up dude.
Now, who would write this?
05 Nov 2005
"Such as the accusation that said individual attempted to poison you with a cup of coffee."

- Ain't seen this anywhere.

"That the individual appears in pictures holding expensive recording equipment when all you show are small fuzzy characters at crowded rallies."

- I saw the equipment too, first hand. It was expensive...

"You claim said individual's $100 Sony boombox was some kind of Q-issue equipment only available to law enforcement."

Never have seen this claim posted anywhere. I've never even heard of the term "Q-issue" (I guess cops have).

"Whether purposely or not, your effect is to provide a much more difficult environment for activists to work in."

- Sounds like the guy with the camera.

None of this actually matters. What will matter is the coming legal demand for FOIA documents from various government agencies and the subpeona of registration information from various websites.
nuff said
05 Nov 2005
I think your contribution to this thread sums it up:

http://la.indymedia.org/news/2004/09/116544_comment.php
see (MUST READ - IT'S COINTELPRO by SD Saturday, Dec. 18, 2004 at 11:04 AM)
___________

Now, I am genuinely sorry if people harass you and your family. But a lot of people around you know how that feels too, since you effectively perpetuate the behavior of those that harass you. Whether or not this is deliberate on your part I can't say, but the point here is that inventing a web of intrigue with people you meet with a combination of half-truths, quarter truths, and total baloneybased on your limited interaction with them is not behavior normally exhibited by commited activists, and in this case has by now quite passed the point of acceptable discourse. Period.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
05 Nov 2005
Q is the old guy who gives james bond his new toys in each movie... isnt he?
I'm going to assume you're correct.
05 Nov 2005
I've had enough of this as well. I have many questions, but I'll shut up. The only objective way to answer those questions is to hire somesome who can find the answers. If I've been wrong, I'm sorry.
This is what I will do for now.
05 Nov 2005
I am sorry to hear that this has effected your family. I will take the following step to assist you.

By November 12, 2005 I will mail a letter to each and every online publication where anything I have written mentions your name and ask them to remove any such articles from their webites.

I am doing this out of concern for your family. I'd rather put this entire chapter behind me. Life is too short.
Re: Boston Mobilization and E-mail Tracking
06 Nov 2005
that's a very decent gesture.