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On Anonymous’s latest crusade against Internet censorship in India

By on May 18, 2012 in Stop The Press | 0 comments

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In a nutshell: A company called Copyright Labs gets a court order from Chennai High Court to block websites pirating movies that Copyright Labs represents interests for. Consequently, Copyright Labs forwards the court order to internet service providers and a whole load of torrent and video sharing sites get blocked. Internet users in India collectively feel they have fire ants in their trousers. Anonymous, or its Indian faction, sets up a Twitter account @opindia_revenge and starts taking down Indian government sites through distributed denial-of-service attacks. We are Legion. Expects Us. Etc etc.

Here are some of my thoughts.

A lot of the online commentary I hear is that “the Indian government is practising censorship!” or “With problems like poverty and corruption, the Indian government thinks preventing movie downloads is more important!”

The Indian government has nothing to do with it. India, like many democracies, has separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary. As this was a court order issued under existing laws of India, where exactly does the question of “the government” censoring the Internet come in?

The court order was requested by a private company representing the interests of film studios and issued by the Chennai High Court. So, if at all anyone is to be angry, they would be angry at these three parties: Copyright Labs, Chennai High Court, film studios who have contracts with Copyright Labs. In the list of websites DDoS’d so far by Anonymous: Congress Party, BJP, Supreme Court of India, Ministry of Information & Technology, Department of Telecommunications. Notice how none of these people were actually involved with the blocking order? “To be fair” – and I use this term loosely – Anonymous also took down Reliance Big Entertainment (one of the film studios who have previously engaged in taking down sites) and Copyright Labs’ website, the latter being not particularly impressive since it’s a shared hosting account on Bluehost. Anonymous India’s (whoever they are) takedowns don’t sound that impressive either when by their own admission they are able to effectively DDoS site for only five minutes.

I don’t believe in the way Anonymous’s hive mind goes about picking it targets. That said, a lot of its targets in the past – while targetted through technically illegal methods – could still be said to be somewhat “morally pardonable”. Perhaps Sony deserved it for adopting poor security practices…but none of the users of the PlayStation Network deserved to have their personal financial details released. Anyway, more often than not, Anonymous have indulged in what can objectively be called vandalism with quite a sense of self-entitlement.

Don’t forget that India’s a country where copyright violation and piracy is de facto. Anonymous’s hive mind seems to lashing out with the same twisted logic and sense of self-entitlement that it typically does. More tellingly, a lot of the outrage that I see online is of people being unable to access pirated content in the guise of “Internet censorship” than anything else. You know what’s going to happen once the dust settles? These actions are going to fast-track even more restrictive IT laws that have allowed such a court order to be issued in the first place.

What would help is to resort to measures within the existing judicial system to see how such a far-reaching court order was issued in the first place (my understanding of the Indian IT Act is it does indeed allows this), and lobby for free-er Internet laws.

Yeah. Like that’s going to happen now after giving the government a reason to enact even tougher laws.



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