The three of us at the Commons Strategies Group were astonished recently to discover extensive, ongoing manipulations of email communications related to our commons work and our planning of the Economics and the Commons Conference (ECC) in May. Below is a letter that we have sent to participants of that conference: Dear ECC participants and other friends, We wish to share with you some shocking news that affects all of us. We recently learned that a person working closely with the Commons Strategies Group, especially in connection with the Economics and the Commons Conference (ECC) in May 2013, had been manipulating ECC planning and intercepting our email communications for at least 18 months. Through traces of IP addresses and partial confessions, both oral and written, we have confirmed that Franco Iacomella made it impossible for a colleague to attend the conference and had been blocking selected email communications to Michel Bauwens, CSG co-founder and head of the P2P Foundation. He was interfering with email sent to Michel from 55 email addresses, many of them used by ECC participants. (A full list is included at the end of this letter. We apologize for sharing the email addresses, but the issue deserves detailed attention.) Emails from these people were either deleted, leading many people to conclude that Michel had simply ignored them, or selectively filtered. Some were diverted by Iacomella and given phony responses. As one might expect, these revolting manipulations made it extremely difficult for people to cooperate in reliable ways. Iacomella's filtering also sowed seeds of confusion and distrust among people working with Michel, and among members of the Commons Strategies Group and the ECC team. We sincerely hope that throughout the conference you did not feel too much of the impact.
These actions also cast a new light on Iacomella's role in suggesting and volunteering to set up a communications platform for the ECC -- http://economicsandcommons.org -- which in fact went online shortly before the conference. You might wonder why we were first encouraging you to use the platform for beyond-ECC communication and in the aftermath did not manage to really make it a lively place. This relates directly to our conclusion that Iacomella's goal may well have been to oversee and control communication more than to enable it among ECC participants. This may be also one of the reasons why the platform was not perceived as easy accessible and as facilitating networking. Just to give you an example of what this meant to us, and especially to Michel Bauwens in real life: On some occasions, Iacomella wrote phony recommendations for himself, using the P2P Foundation's and Michel's name, in order to secure speaking engagements, advisory board memberships, and other roles for himself, when it was Michel who was initially invited. (To reach Michel now and in the future, use this email address: email@example.com.) We have also documented that Iacomella forged letters purporting to be from the Right Livelihood Award Foundation as part of a successful attempt to prevent an invited keynote speaker from attending the ECC. In a series of deceptions unrelated to ECC and CSG, Iacomella misrepresented his academic credentials, job titles and organizational affiliations in Argentina for several years now. We do not know the actual motivations behind all of these acts or whether there were third parties involved. However, the apparent goals were to promote Iacomella's visibility in free software, tech and commons circles; to interfere with the activities and growth of the P2P Foundation and the Commons Movement; and to actively undermine the working relationships of Commons Strategies Group members as they planned the ECC. While the effects of some of the email manipulations were subtle or invisible, other results -- personal tensions, mistakes, misunderstandings -- often were not. We therefore wish to share these recently discovered facts with you to help shed new light on the past year and a half of the activities by the CSG and P2P Foundation. It is important for us to let you know: if some communications or exchanges felt amiss, confusing or somehow offensive, they may have been related to these hidden interferences with our emails. Please be assured that we have now secured control over the ECC communications platform and its contents, and will soon make a decision about how to move forward. For now, the three of us with the Commons Strategies Group -- Michel, Silke and David -- are relieved to have discovered what was behind so many misunderstandings and problems. We are now re-committing ourselves to working together and developing new strategic priorities for commoning. We are starting afresh at a time when so many important commons initiatives are bursting forth. This strange, outrageous episode underscores the real significance of our commons work: it is becoming more politically consequential. The commons is a threatening alternative to some people. Now that we know how truly insecure electronic communications are -- thanks to the revelations about the US National Security Administration's routine spying on ordinary citizens -- it is clear that the future of our commons movement depends upon direct, trustworthy communications, and whenever possible, face to face communication. The real power of the commons is the incorruptibility of our relationships: something that we must work hard to protect. If you have any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us. Sincerely, The Commons Strategies Group: David Bollier Silke Helfrich Michel Bauwens Below is the list of 55 email addresses that were being blocked or diverted on Michel Bauwens' email account by Franco Iacomella: [email addresses omitted here]