Update: Amr says they already have such a service, called Riseup.

It strikes me that, on a global scale, it would benefit journalists, dissidents, free speech advocates and good old fashion folk, if there were a web-based email platform that was easy to access and use, as well as reliable and that was run by a group that, unlike Yahoo and Hotmail (Microsoft) and even Google, would not hand over information to any tyrannical government that came along with (or without) a court order.

The mere ability to send email knowing that the ‘company’ running it is not seeking to curry favor with the same people who would like to find you and attach electrodes to your wigglers might be a benefit. Yahoo is positively giddy with the desire to “obey the laws of the countries in which they operate,” and Microsoft (and here) and Google don’t have clean hands either. Services like Hushmail are just too complex for most people to use.

That’s not to say that traffic and users wouldn’t be traceable by the normal methods, but eager-to-please companies may have done as much damage to free speech globally as any number of “jackbooted thugs.”

Another consideration, however, is that most people use Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail because they are simply well known. To design a foolproof system that no one uses would be no more useful than not creating one at all. That’s a big question: are the market forces alone too overwhelming to make such a service valuable?

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