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The 10 Internet activism mailing lists every Web user should be on

Yes, people still use email.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Jun 30, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 1:14 am CDT

The future of the Internet is being shaped in legislatures, board rooms, back rooms, and chat rooms on a minute-by-minute basis.

How do you keep track of it all?

The answer, believe it or not, is mailing lists. For decades, activists, academics, and curious minds have mixed it up via email most famously on the Cypherpunks mailing list that played host to the minds behind WikiLeaks, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), cryptographic innovators, journalists, and more.

The reality is that in 2014, despite pretentions from Twitter and the rest of the Web, one of the best ways to wrap your mind around Internet activism is the jump into great mailing lists (a surprisingly hot topic at the moment) and absorb everything you can.

In that spirit, we put together a list of 10 mailing lists that every Internet activist should follow. Of course, there are hundreds more out there, so please leave your favorite lists in the comment section below to help your fellow readers find more top quality lists to join.

1) Liberationtech

Stanford University’s Liberation Technology program asks how information technology can be used to defend human rights, improve governance, empower the poor, and promote economic development.

By constantly examining the intersection of social science, computer science, and engineering, Liberationtech’s mailing list (not to mention its excellent Twitter feed) provides constant updates and great insight into how technology might change the world.

2) Cypherpunks

At 22 years old, the cypherpunks mailing list boasts more history and verve than almost any other list online today. This version of the list is extremely active and interesting, owing much of its current buzz to Edward Snowden’s National Security Agency leaks.

This is an unmoderated list that nevertheless manages to hold clever and essential discussions on key Internet issues. Plus, it’s pretty fun to see occasional cameos from some of the Internet’s most important activists and thinkers.

3) Cryptography

The best ways to ensure privacy and freedom on the Internet all use the practice and study of cryptography to protect information from prying eyes. The Cryptography mailing list hosts an ongoing discussion into not just how these indispensable tools work now, but how they should work and why.

This list is considered by many to be one of the successors to the original cyherpunks mailing list that, in many ways, carried Internet activism in the 1990s. Unlike the previous list, which shares both the name and the unmoderated nature of the original cypherpunks mailing list, this list is moderated and tends toward a more technical discussion about cryptographic technology.

4) Cryptome

Long before WikiLeaks and Snowden, New Yorker John Young was building a vast digital library of leaks, prohibited documents, and material focused on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance.

The Cryptome mailing list discusses the key Internet freedom issues of the day and talks about Young’s always growing and underappreciated library in a way that you won’t find anywhere else.

5) Tor-talk

Tor is likely the most important privacy tool the Internet has ever seen. Its growing anonymity network has played host to Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Dread Pirate Roberts, and countless other activists and journalists who are shaping the way our digital world works.

The Tor-talk mailing list is the single best source of information on the ideas that are paving the way toward the future of Tor. The list can get pretty technical at times, but even those discussions can be an illuminating read. For true laymen, the best topics are the regularly posted concepts and theoretical designs about what Tor is and what Tor could be.

6) The Berkman Center for Internet & Society Buzz

As an East Coast counterpart to Stanford Liberationtech’s discussion list, Harvard University delivers a weekly digest of excellent technology articles from around the Internet focused on the future of cyberspace. Berkman’s Twitter is an excellent complement to the email list.

7) GigaLaw

Understanding Internet law is not easy, but Doug Isenberg’s GigaLaw newsletter provides in-depth articles on the most important issues shaping the future of the law. It’s an easy click that will quickly raise your legal IQ a few points every read.

8) Electronic Frontier Foundation’s EFFector

For the past 24 years, the EFF has been one of the most important digital rights organizations on the planet. This mailing list keeps you up to date on everything the EFF is doing, including updates from the non-profit’s peerless Deep Links blog.

9) American Civil Liberties Union Action Network

If the EFF’s quarter-century history of digital rights activism is impressive, the ACLU’s 94 year record of defending civil rights makes it undeniably one of the most important entities in American history.

The EFF is known for exclusively Internet activism, while the ACLU casts a wider net. But, as made evident by its assistance to Edward Snowden, the older non-profit is more than willing to step into the ring to defend and preserve rights and liberties in cyberspace as well.

10) Politico Morning Cybersecurity

Politico continues its long tradition of morning briefs with this thorough look at the dynamic world of cybersecurity and government. If you’ve never subscribed to a Politico list, you can expect a daily report on everything cybersecurity, with links out to all the major stories of the day.

The briefing is big and, like Politico’s best Washington D.C. mailing list successes, aims to be read by all the key players in the world of cybersecurity, a growing realm that includes executives, politicians, techies, activists, hackers, and more.

Photo via Hakan Dahlstrom/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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*First Published: Jun 30, 2014, 12:11 pm CDT