Anonymous remailer closed
Copyright © 1996 to Bruce Simpson

anon.pet.fi, the pioneering anonymous email server has been closed by its operator, Johan Helsingius.

In the face of claims by Britain's Observer newspaper which reported an FBI adviser as saying that the anonymous mailserver was responsible for forwarding up to 90% of all the child pornography on the net, Helsingius made a statement denying the allegations but decided to close the system anyway.

The anon.pet.fi service, which has been running for three years, was originally created with the intention of providing a vehicle for free speech to internet users in politically opressed countries. It was also a service which allowed the free and open discussion of important, sensitive issues between parties that preferred to hide their identities. Free and open discussions involving the victims of sexual abuse, rape and the like were only possible in some cases due to the existance of anonymous remailers.

The service claimed a base of over 500,000 regular users and was reported to be processing several thousand messages each day prior to its closure.

Helsinguis has become no stranger to complaint and victimisation over the past three years, at one stage being the target of a search-warrant issued by Police in conjunction with a copyright case brought by the Church of Scientology. His site has also been the recipient of numerous mail-bombings and other network attacks.

When announcing the closure of the site, Helsinguis was quoted as saying "I will close down the remailer for the time being because the legal issues governing the whole Internet in Finland are yet undefined. The legal protection of the users needs to be clarified. At the moment the privacy of Internet messages is judicially unclear."

In spite of the closure of this site, several other anonymous remailers remain on the internet.

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