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Re: NYT on (fwd)

  • From: Paul Wouters
  • Date: Tue Jan 14 05:54:26 2003

(Some more background on the Flashback censorship issue)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 01:08:20 +0100
From: Zenon Panoussis <>
Cc: Kurt Erik Lindqvist <>, batz <>,
To: Paul Wouters <>
Subject: Re: NYT on

Paul Wouters wrote:

 > Perhaps Zenon (Whom I cc:ed just because he knows the details) can
 > shed some more light on this.

I hosted and am still hosting a partial mirror of the old Flashback,
including the nazi site that caused the controversy, I know Jan
Axelsson personally and I got the story mainly straight from him.
Whether this makes the story more accurate or more biased is an
open issue for you to decide. In any case, much of the correspondence
between Axelsson and the upstreams, as well as between Axelsson and
the authorities, rolled out on my fax at some point. All the paperwork
I saw corroborated Axelsson's story and none contradicted it.

In the first round, Björn Fries, a social-democratic city council
member in Karlskrona, demanded that Flashback would remove the nazi
site. Flashback refused and advised Fries to report the site to the
prosecutor. Fries did so, but he was not the first one; others had
filed reports too. The prosecutor found no reason to act. Fries,
claiming that he was acting as a private individual and as a
social-democratic polititian but *not* as a city council member,
turned to Flashback's upsteam and demandedaction against Flashback.
In fact, he did so on the letterhead of the city of Karlskrona and
had the city lawyer do all the paperwork.

The upstream (Air2net?) basically shrugged their shoulders. Fries
went to the upstream's upstream while at the same time he mounted
a broad and rather populistic media campaign in which all the
issues were blurred down to "the nazis are bad". At approximately
the same time, some corporations (notableSE Banken) stated to the
upstream's upstream (I am almost sure that was UUnet, but I can't
swear on it) that they would only use the services of "nazi-free"
providers. The top upstream gave an ultimatum to the bottom one
and the bottom one told Axelsson that they were extremely sorry,
but it was either Flashback off the air or Flashback *and* the
upstream off the air. Flashback was cut off.

In the second round, Axelsson went shopping for connectivity. He
got the one quote after the other with the standard "we will be
pleased to welcome you as a customer", but shortly later the one
ISP after the other backed off until none was left. At this time,
at the initiative of Fries and through letters written by the
Karlskrona city lawyer, the Swedish association of ISPs (I forget
its name; something like the Dutch NLIP, a non-mandatory,
non-regulatory private body in which all major and many minor
ISPs are represented) took up the issue. At first they issued
some kind of statement saying that they had all agreed to refuse
nazi content and anybody carrying it. Later they took that back
and refused to comment. Since they are a private body, nobody
can force them to show their minutes (and nobody has leaked them
so far). The end result was that not one single ISP was willing
to host Flashback and Axelsson got a rather remarkable collection
of subterfuges, "not in, he'll will call you" from people who
never called, unreplied letters and the like.

In the third round Axelsson mounted his own media offensive and
attacked the ISPs, the city of Karlskrona and Fries himself. He filed
complaints with the competition authority (the Swedish NMa) for the
agreement of the ISPs across competition borders to boycott him,
demanded stacks of public documents from Karlscrona, complained to
the national ombudsman against the city exceeding the statutory
limits of its authority and against Fries for using the city for
his "private" campaigns. The affair became pretty big, to the
extent that questions were asked in parliament and the prime
minister,who previously had congratulated Fries for his "courage
in the fight against nazism", had to weasle his way out of a
possibly hot spot. Part of Flashback was hosted in Holland.
The anti-trust complaint was not investigated (lack of evidence).
I don't know the outcome of the other complaints.

In the third round - or rather in the break - Axelsson got some
"throwaway" connectivity from someone who didn't care if he would
get cut off. Flashback went back online and stayed there for two
days before it was cut off again.

In the fourth round, more than a year later, Axelsson dumped the
web hosting, got connected, and put his main site and the webfora
online. No static nazi websites, no big problems. There must have
been nazi entries in the discussion fora, but there is usually so
much opposition to them that the whole ends up being quite the
opposite of nazi promotion.


In effect, the one website that caused all this never made it
back on the air in Sweden. The partial and partially fucked-up
mirror of the original Flashback is still available from my
server in the Netherlands. Most Swedish nazi sites have moved
to the US and many have bundled their efforts in nazi portals,
where they have better and cheaper technical resources and get
help with better design, ending up with much better sites than
their original make-a-site-while-drunk-in-the-garage variants.
They can show the finger to people like Fries and to the whole
Swedish establishment and they feel, rightly, that they won this
fight and have come stronger out of it. The big loser in all
this is the Swedish democracy. Cheerio.


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