From: firstname.lastname@example.org (The Anonymous Administrator)
Organization: Anonymous contact service
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 1995 10:28:09 UTC
Subject: Press release on anon servers, child porn and scientologists
Xref: senator-bedfellow.mit.edu alt.anonymous:1522 alt.privacy.anon-server:2043 alt.personals:127220 alt.sex.bondage:116743 alt.personals.bi:7905 alt.religion.scientology:35280 soc.culture.indian:222854 alt.sex.bestiality:18949 soc.culture.turkish:100231 alt.sex.motss:24939 alt.sexual.abuse.recovery:47290 soc.culture.pakistan:77285 alt.support.depression:21435 alt.conspiracy:79784 soc.culture.china:177607 alt.suicide.holiday:24366 soc.culture.bosna-herzgvna:21636 soc.culture.yugoslavia:36530 soc.culture.croatia:17881 alt.recovery.aa:3099 alt.recovery.codependency:4817 soc.culture.malaysia:34573 soc.culture.arabic:36828
Press release, Monday, February 20th, 1995
World-wide Internet community appalled over the Scientology seizure
Was the child porn scandal just a cover?
The reputation of Finland as a country that holds freedom of
expression, justice and human rights in high esteem has suffered among
the world-wide Internet community. So far Finland has gotten a lot of
positive publicity as the home of the best-known anonymous server,
anon.penet.fi. These servers enable safe net discussion of sensitive
issues, such as reporting violations of human rights.
The ease with which the Church Of Scientology (with the help of Finnish
police) obtained sensitive information has caused great concern and
uproar. With the help of the finnish police, the Church Of Scientology
found out the identity of a person who had published material on the
Church of Scientology anonymously on the Usenet newsgroups. At the same
time there has been a lot of speculation on the net on whether the
recent child porn scandal (which was totally unsupported by hard
evidence) might be connected to the Scientologists' interest in the
Anonymous servers enable anonymous discussions via electronic mail and
newsgroups on the Internet, used by millions of people all over the
world, and are vital for support of freedom of expression. These
servers are used by people who are under pressure or persecuted, people
who report offenses of human rights or even discuss their personal
problems and sufferings.
One of the longest-lasting and probably the most famous anonymous
server is anon.penet.fi, created by the Finnish Internet specialist
Johan "Julf" Helsingius back in 1992. Every day more than 7000 messages
are automatically handled by the service, and there are over 200 000
registered users. The popularity of the server is largely due to its
trustworthiness, based on both the personal reputation of Helsingius
among the network community, as well as on the good reputation of
Finland as a country where individual rights, privacy and freedom of
expression are respected.
This kind of reputation is important, since there are lots of people
and organisations in the world that would rather see the anon servers
being shut down. Governments that violate human rights, as well as
other organizations banning public and open discussion of their
activities, such as the Church of Scientology, are among these. The
Church of Scientology has in fact approached the people offering
anonymity services, threatening with lawsuits unless the anonymous
discussion in scientology-related newsgroups stops. In fear of
lawsuits many American servers have either stopped altogether or
strongly limited their activities.
The flow of events
On Thursday, February 2, an American representative of the Church of
Scientology (CoS) contacted Johan Helsingius, informing him that some
information residing on a private and closed CoS system had been made
public via the anon.penet.fi server. Based on this they have reported a
burglary to the Los Angeles Police and FBI. The representative of CoS
asked Helsingius for the real identity of the individual that had
posted the confidential information. After Helsingius had made it clear
that he was in no position to give out the information, he was told an
official request to the Finnish Police was on its way via Interpol.
The next day, February 3, the Finnish police contacted Helsingius,
informing him that if need be, they would get a warrant of search and
seizure. The necessary documents for these actions were promised for
On Monday, February 6, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published
an article based on the investigation of Mats Wiklund from University
of Stockholm. The article stated that child porn was distributed to
Internet from the Finnish anon.penet.fi server. The Finnish media
picked up the story, with headlines such as "Internet distributes child
porn from an address in Helsinki" (Helsingin Sanomat) and "Internet
flooded with child porn" (Ilta-Sanomat). The first public reaction in
Finland was based purely on the initial article in Dagens Nyheter.
Meantime, the Internet community started to investigate the matter.
The child porn statements caused amazement, as the anon server has (due
to heavy traffic) been forced to limit the maximum size of messages,
and ban postings to groups containing pictures altogether. At closer
look the Wiklund "research" is revealed to have been made sloppily and
without enough expertise.
The information needed to reveal the sender of the articles has not
been saved, and the famous pictures themselves are nowhere to be
obtained for a closer look. The only picture that is actually included
in Wiklund's report seems to be taken on a nudist camp.
Wiklund has investigated four newsgroups dealing with sexual pictures,
checked 5651 postings and found 8 pictures of adolescent nude children,
none of which are (according to Wiklund's own report) actually
pornographic. After a closer look at the pictures in those groups, they
are shown to actually come from United Kingdom, not Finland. Wiklund
admits that he never thought of the possibility of the source of the
pictures being forged. On Saturday, February 11, Johan Helsingius
reveals the true nature of events and the headlines in Finnish media
On the Internet there follows a lot of lively discussion and
questioning of the motives of the Swedish researcher, the person who
forged the source of the pictures, and the journalist of Dagens
Nyheter. Some writers suggest a connection to the attempts by the CoS
to silence anon servers. Since the authorities don't seem to be
investigating the case, Helsingius himself files a request for
investigation with the Finnish police. The initial investigation
reveals no crime committed at least in Finland.
In the meantime, on February 8, the Finnish police serve Helsingius
with a warrant for search and seizure, and obtains from Helsingius the
electronic mail address of the anonymous user that the CoS wants.
Within an hour after the Finnish Police gets hold of the information,
the Finnish representative of the CoS informs Helsingius legal
representative that they received the information.
On 14 February the criminal investigation on the scientologists case is
dropped. Helsingius gets this information on February 17, and reveals
the situation on some discussion groups and mailing lists on the
Internet. This announcement has caused a flood of electronic mail, and
a huge outroar among the Internet community.
During the weekend, Helsingius received hundreds of comments and
queries, most of them questioning the actions of the Finnish
February 19 the maintainer of an anonymous service in Amsterdam tells
Helsingius that the Church of Scientology has approached him again,
threatening with legal action unless the anonymous participation into
the discussion on scientology is stopped. This time the issue would be
claims about illicit distribution of copies of copyrighted computer
To find out more about the anon service, send mail to email@example.com.
Due to the double-blind, any mail replies to this message will be anonymized,
and an anonymous id will be allocated automatically. You have been warned.
Please report any problems, inappropriate use etc. to firstname.lastname@example.org.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank