Riseup is a Seattle-based collective with members worldwide who provide free privacy-respecting communication infrastructure including email, file sharing, document editing, and social networking. Unlike corporate services, Riseup does not track users' IP addresses, and emails are stored in encrypted form. Riseup was formed by tech enthusiasts in the wake of the 1999 shutdown of Seattle's World Trade Organization summit. The collective describes its social vision as "a world without oppression or hierarchy, where power is shared equally."
The following history comes from a mass email sent by Riseup on 17 December 2017:
Today, we present a Riseup story.
Once upon a time, there were a couple of fired-up twenty-somethings who had just come out of an exhausting and exhilarating week of beautiful protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle. They had a question in their burning hearts: what's the best way we can help build justice movements in the world? Being of the hacker and geeky persuasion, they came up with an idea called riseup.net.
At first, the project provided email and lists to a bunch of friends who needed secure ways to communicate that weren't provided by some of the very corporations they were agitating against. It was a pretty simple project: we run it, we encrypt it, and we don't keep logs. The year was 2000, and the internet was still pretty new.
As riseup.net grew with new collective members, so did everyone's thoughts and theories around why grassroots technology collectives were an essential part of movement building. There was an evolving conversation on how technology can have, embedded and rooted within it, systems that are based on protecting and serving people's needs, rather than exploitation. Back then, all our servers were housed in communes and friend's houses across Seattle, and there were many a midnight run to far-flung basements to solder wires together and keep our services going.
Collective members left. Others came. Sometimes with a lot of conflict, as is the way of good people working collectively. Some folks went to grad school, others moved to Canada, had kids, got married, got busy. Lots of people left for a time and came back when they had the time and space for Riseup again. Lots of people stayed. All the while, our systems and technologies grew to provide more for our users, who were now not just our friends, but also our allies in this quixotic quest.
We moved our servers to a more secure location. We made friends with tech activists around the world, and gave tools and bandwidth to help smaller tech collectives thrive. We made a lot of cool software, and made it all free and openly distributed for everyone to use. We got sued by some right wing religious types who didn't like our users having a queer kiss-in at their conservative church. With activist lawyers, we donned our finest threads, went to federal court, and refused to turn over any information on our awesome users. We won the case. We kept growing.
Then came Edward Snowden. Suddenly, the things we had been telling people for years stopped sounding like conspiracy theories, and people understood that surveillance was coming for us all. Our users swelled, and we got better at our security. Spammers and phishers attacked us from all sides, and we fought back in a constant and boring war. Enemies found tricky ways to use our services, and we played whack-a-mole to find them and kick them out. Every year we made things better, like our personally encrypted mail storage this last year. Every year, we kept talking about our why and theorizing how technology, changing all around us, was an essential place to claim space and create liberatory change. Time travel kept happening at sixty seconds a minute, and we kept expanding and deepening the work that we do.
And here we are, eighteen years later. Some of you have been with us since the very beginning. Some of you are new to Riseup. We are so lucky to be on this journey with all of you, and we are still just as fired up, exhilarated, and exhausted as ever. Please, please, please keep us going for another year, if you can.
Love, The Riseup Birds