As promised, hactivist group Anonymous organized demonstrations on Saturday in 16 cities throughout India, protesting the government’s Internet laws and the ISPs’ blocking of popular file-sharing sites. Protesters donned Guy Fawkes masks and amassed at cricket grounds and other outdoor landmarks from Chennai to Delhi, according to BBC reports.
The protests focused on the government’s broad power to monitor, intercept and block any information from the Internet as well as to force companies to remove any material it finds objectionable from their servers. Foreign Policy explains the issue in a detailed article published last week:
The trouble started with the 2008 passage of the Information Technology (Amendment) Act, whose Section 69 empowers the government to direct any Internet service to block, intercept, monitor, or decrypt any information through any computer resource. Company officials who fail to comply with government requests can face fines and up to seven years in jail. Then, in April 2011, the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology issued new rules under which Internet companies are expected to remove within 36 hours any content that regulators designate as “grossly harmful,” “harassing,” or “ethnically objectionable” — designations that are open to a wide variety of interpretations and that free speech advocates argue have opened the door to abuse. It is thanks to these rules that the website of the hunger-striking cartoonist, [Aseem] Trivedi, was taken offline. Also thanks to the 2011 rules, Facebook and Google are facing trial for having failed to remove objectionable content. If found guilty, the companies could face fines, and executives could be sentenced to jail time.
The more immediate spark for the protests, however, was a recent court order requiring ISPs to block two Bollywood films from file and video sharing sites such as the Pirate Bay, Vimeo and Pastebin. Rather than block individual videos, the ISPs chose to block the services entirely, effectively removing them from India’s Internet.
Anonymous organized the protests through its Posterous blog and over its Operation India Twitter feed. The group also coordinated multiple distributed denial of service attacks throughout the week against the websites of government departments, political parties and the ISPs doing the blocking.