A few days ago, I was sad to see that the Association Electronique Libre (AEL) website was down and only replaced by two measly <html> tags. For those who didn’t know it:

The Association Electronique Libre is a belgian association protecting the fundamental rights in the information society.

The Association Electronique Libre supports the freedoms of speech, press, and association on the Internet and any electronical mediums, the right to use encryption software for private communication, the right to write software unimpeded by private monopolies, the right to access and preserve public domain and free digital information.
(from an old copy of the AEL website)

Although it was based in Belgium, the information it contained as well as the actions that were supported exceeded the small Belgian borders. The wiki was a very useful and valuable source of documents, links and comments about freedom in the electronic media. “Fortunately” we still have a 2007 version of the website on and some messages from the mailing-list were kepts on the mail-archive and open subscriber (and I will preciously keep my archives!).

Following a small exchange of e-mails with one of the main guy behind AEL, the machine hosting the AEL is simply dead (the fact the machine was dying was announced a long time ago, no one apparently reacted). I guess (or rather hope) that the data is still available on the hard disk(s).

Now what? Beside the fact we are all getting “older” with other priorities in life, how come we don’t feel more concerned about our freedom in the cyberspace? Internet liberties are still in danger [1], the Electronic Frontier Foundation website has more and more issues, a paper-media publishing house is printing comics to “educate teenage youth about an array of issues ranging from privacy, free software, security and the impact of politics on personal freedom as it relates to the use of technology”, … Are we too lazy to try to understand what’s behind Facebook, LinkedIn, Orkut, Ning and other “social networking websites“? Maybe the technological gap between these polished websites and what indivuals can do “in their garage” radically increased since the advent of so-called Web2.0, inhibiting our will to actively participate in it [2], to make it ours? Did most of us “surrender” in front of the razzle-dazzle aspects of new communication media?

The idea behind this post title (AEL – New Generation?) is simply that something should be done to bring back to life a central, hopefully community-driven website to gather information about our freedom in cyberspace …

[1] Ironically, in this post, this reference is written by the main person behind the AEL
[2] About the “creativity” of people in Web2.0 applications, we could read with interest this article from C. Jonckheere and F. Schreuer (unfortunately in French only)