Move over, Occupy Wall Street. This Saturday, you may witness some new hashtags trending on Twitter – #OccupyMumbai, #OccupyDelhi or maybe even #OccupyBengaluru. These events are part of peaceful demonstrations planned by Anonymous in India as a sign of protests against the censorship of the Internet. Anonymous, the group of cyber-age revolutionaries, has managed to take down the websites of the Supreme Court of India, All India Congress Committee and Reliance Communications, amongst others, during the past few weeks as a part of protests against Internet censorship in India.
While the naysayers have criticised Anonymous for its ways of working, many will agree that hacktivism- a unique combination of anonymous civil society and collective action – has proven to be a powerful agent of change in Tunisia during the Arab Spring. Last year, Amnesty International in its annual report, focused on what it described as the “critical battle under way for control of access to information, …” putting the recent events in India in the spotlight.
While their methods may have been questionable in the past, there is merit in the cause that Anonymous is fighting for in India. The Internet allows individuals to voice their opinions – I am able to reach out to so many people through this article, thanks to the democratisation of technology enabled by Internet. Everything is online. Your life. My life. The Internet plays an important role in every stage of our life – finding a job, deciding on what children should study and where, what car to buy, and so on. Just as many of us have gotten used to living much of our lives online, here come these new draconian measures of the government, which are preemptive more than anything else.
This is not all. The proposed technical solution by the government- censorship enforced through the domain name system – would not have the effect the government want it to have, but its technical side-effects would break important parts of the Internet. This is when the Indian Internet economy is growing the second fastest amongst the G20 countries and is expected to reach Rs 10.8 trillion by 2016.
Unfortunately only about 10% of India’s population uses the Internet, leading to Internet freedom being a non-election issue in times to come. However, efforts from groups like Anonymous should be acknowledged in bringing a new generation of white-collar protestors to fight for their right to use Internet, a technology that is still not accessible to the majority of the population.
There is also a dire need to review the erstwhile constitutional measures, which lead to blanket banning of the websites and a need for them to be replaced with fair and transparent laws that are not subject to misuse by either the government or the corporates. India’s burgeoning Internet freedom movement needs the support of groups like Anonymous to scuttle the efforts of government or corporates who threaten to encroach upon web’s freedom. Saturday’s protest by Anonymous is just the first step in the battle. Will you join in?