Anonymous held demonstrations across India to denounce the government’s increasing Internet censorship, as the hacktivist collective takes to the streets to fight for online freedom of expression.
Over 100 hackers rallied in Mumbai, New Delhi and sixteen other cities, protesting a countrywide ban on file-sharing websites like the Pirate Bay.
“We are protesting arbitrary, extra-judicial censorship, where not even the government knows — or cares — who controls what,” one protestor explained. Wearing Guy Fawkes’ masks and chanting slogans against the “Great Indian Firewall,” participants condemned a recent government order forcing ISPs to shut down file-sharing sites.
Copyrightlabs last month received government permission to ban sites like Pastebin and Vimeo, which sometimes host copyrighted material. The Indian government is steadily moving to whitewash the country’s Internet, provoking outrage from opponents like Anonymous who support online freedom.
India’s Information Technology Act already mandates that search engines, websites and ISPs remove “disparaging” or “blasphemous” content within two days of receiving complaints.The country’s politicians depend on support from on various minority groups like Muslims and Sikhs. And they are unlikely to vote for lawmakers who do nothing to prohibit online images of Muhammad eating pork or graffiti on the Golden Temple.
Given this situation, India’s officials want to go even further in prohibiting questionable material from the Internet. They recently announced plans for a 50-member United Nations-backed Committee for Internet Related Policies, which would purge “offensive” images and content from India’s Internet.
India may win additional support for its plan if the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union gains more power at the World Conference on International Telecommunication in December. Should U.N. members vote to increase the ITU’s online influence, governments like India’s will enjoy heightened control over internal Internet affairs.
Currently, U.S.-based non-profits set international regulatory standards, making it difficult for governments to darken sites without official consequences.
In response to these pending censorship measures, Anonymous has taken to the streets and launched distributed denial of service attacks at India’s government websites. The collective crippled sites for the Indian Supreme Court and All India Congress Committee, vowing to continue such hacks until India takes online freedom seriously.
Anonymous’ recent actions suggest it will continue to fight India’s censorship plans with every available resource. And, if other countries follow suit, the collective could be very busy indeed.
Alok Dixit, a New Delhi protestor, summed it up. “The government is bringing censorship through the back door and we will oppose it,” he insisted, challenging politicians to reconsider their Internet policies.