US authorities have shut down 20 independent news websites run by the Independent Media Center (Indymedia) and seized two UK-based web servers.
On 7 October, a US federal order was issued to San Antonio-based web hosting provider Rackspace requesting the computer equipment, according to the Indymedia website. Rackspace was hosting the Indymedia web servers in London.
Rackspace said the order was issued under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. This allows mutual co-operation between countries in investigations such as international terrorism, kidnapping and money laundering.
It said the investigation was not initiated in the US.
"Rackspace is acting as a good corporate citizen and is co-operating with international law enforcement authorities. The court prohibits Rackspace from commenting further on this matter," the company said.
Officials from the Home Office and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation could not be reached for comment.
Indymedia said it did not know why the servers had been seized, as the subpoena was issued to Rackspace and not to Indymedia. The group, which describes itself as an international media network covering social justice issues, said it "insists that the servers are returned".
The Indymedia site in the UK was restored because it was backed up on another server, the group said, though other sites remained offline on 11 October. The websites affected by the seizure are located in 17 countries.
Indymedia called it "ironic" that the action came just before it was to participate in the European Forum on Communications Rights being held alongside the European Social Forum, covering issues such as electronic civil liberties and community media.
Laura Rohde writes for IDG New Service