From being mere spectators to the blocking of websites, restricted freedom of speech and Internet protests happening across the world, Indian Internet users have now begun to get a taste of government taking control over their Internet activities. In the recent times, Web censorship has become a topic of debate and we’ve been slowly getting a taste of it as incidents of hacking in retaliation to web censorship are becoming a frequent occurrence. The government on one side is taking an increasingly active stance in tightening the reins on the way we access content on web, while on the other side groups like Anonymous are citing free speech. Although, reams of media space have already been dedicated to explaining the effects of piracy on the revenues of the industry surrounding it, the issue itself continues to grow complex with each passing day. While the word Anonymous refers to someone with an unknown identity, it is usually by choice and Anonymous emerged as the face of protest whenever a user's freedom to expression was curbed. It had protested against the SOPA bill that had been trying to lock free web knowledge.

Anonymous was formed in 2003 by a group of hackers. The group has been around, since a while now and have been actively involved in online protests in times when they felt there were restrictions mounting on one's freedom. We, in India, got our first taste of restricted freedom of speech, last year when Communications minister, Kapil Sibal got all vocal over how user generated online content should be pre-screened before it went live. While the Internet community raised a noise over censorship, companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and many more had to face the ire of the government. Well, that was just the beginning. As we entered the year 2012, the legal limbo between the government and companies, and its set of followers came following, too. In 2011, we also saw the anti-corruption wave sweep India, and Anonymous had come in support of the move by breaching an Indian IT website. Sony had also pointed fingers at Anonymous during its much written about PlayStation outage.

Anonymously active

Anonymously active

Early this month, file-sharing websites, like ThePirateBay and some others like Vimeo were brought to their knees when all major ISPs across the nation went on a ‘torrent sites blocking spree’, in a bid to curb online piracy. Reliance passed John Doe orders, to safeguard the copyright of its films, but this took another turn with ISPs started to block a list of websites. A John Doe order was also filed with the Madras High court by a Chennai-based firm, Copyright Labs, who had reportedly triggered off the entire incident and the issue at the heart of it was the release of two movies, Dhammu (Telugu) and 3 (Tamil). The move towards web censorship by the owners of the content did not go down too well with the popular hacktivist group, Anonymous and in their response to the block of the torrent sites, the group hacked the official websites of the Supreme Court and that of the All India Congress Committee, and Reliance, soon after.

Tweets that came in by the hacker group, OpIndia confirm that the security of the official websites of the Supreme Court of India and the All India Congress Committee had been compromised. In a series of tweets that have been appearing on the micro-blogging site, OpIndia stated – “#Government must understand. #INTERNET belongs to us! #TANGODOWN –> &“, and in another tweet stated – “@Anon_Central Another #TANGODOWN –>> Department of telecom, You should've expected us! ~ #opindia”.

Protest against restricted freedom of speech..

Protest against restricted freedom of speech..

Several ISPs, including BSNL, MTNL, Bharti Airtel, Aircel, Hathway Cable and Dotcom, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, O-Zone Networks, Tikona Digital Networks, BG Broadband India, Sify Technologies, went ahead to block various websites abiding to the John Doe order. Anonymous India got into action once ISPs started blocking the websites. Anonymous’ Indian operations over the past week included the hacking of multiple ISPs, wherein they managed to extract lists of blocked sites from their servers. Anonymous learnt that it’s not just the few file sharing sites that were blocked, but a whole bunch of other sites. The target ISP in this case happened to be Reliance and the entire list of blocked sites was downloaded from their server.

Anonymous held a virtual press conference on an IRC (Internet Relay Chat) server this weekend. It even issued a press statement that says –

With this leak we are proving to you something that no one had ever attempted to prove. The Indian government is not only useless when it comes to protecting and serving it's people but is also equally powerless when it comes to controlling the big guns such as reliance. The following is a list of Sites and URL's blocked by reliance. Just give it a quick check with list that government has and see how many sites and URL's are here without the peoples and governments knowledge. Or did the government of yours really know and kept quite due to the special Corrupt special services that they are running for them. Shhhh.. Before you deny It read more.

When we first hacked into reliance they realised that we had the list and also cause of the media coverge they knew they were in trouble as they themselves knew that they broke the law and the trust of it's customers. When they saw media was knowing this they started unblocking the sites to make it look like they are heroes and reliance did you feel it would be so easy for you to do that and not cross us. Bad Idea. You tried to change our passwords and tried everything you know to stop us. For your information We Dont Even Care If You Have A Password. Stop Attacking people and their freedom and we will stop.

Why has Reliance blocked AirIndia employees Protest page on Facebook.(marked in green and purple) —- Did the court issue an order for that too
Or does the government have some ties with reliance to help them kill the strike at AI.”

BJP website

The message across the BJP website when it was hacked..

Click here to view the list of the sites blocked by Reliance. The most recent and latest announcement from Anonymous India reveals that they want to do a more peaceful protest. The 9th of June has been set as a date for this protest – less than two weeks from now and the hacker group has asked all those interested to wear a mask, to join in on the protest. 

Yesterday, the websites of one of the nation’s biggest political parties, BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) were defaced.  On their Twitter account (‏@opindia_back), the hacktivist group made this public in a series of tweets; some reading – “Young guns of #India —> We owned to display a message to you all. So kindly read it. #opindia”, among others in succession. Further posts on Twitter that serve as a probable explanation to the hacks, read – “BJP are the opposition they should have f****n stopped this or should have organised a protest they didn't do any.”

There aren’t any further updates on the peaceful protest to be held on June 9 yet, but here's the list of places, across the nation where the group will hold their protests. So, the question is will you join in?

To get the complete picture of Anonymous' attacks, click here.

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