Protesting regulations that they say are tantamount to online censorship, members of the hacking collective known as Anonymous gathered in more than a dozen cities throughout India Saturday — though according to some reports, the results of those assemblies were mixed.
According to Rajini Vaidyanathan of BBC News, members of the group organized their gatherings across 16 cities nationwide, including Mumbai, where an estimated 100 protesters donned their trademark Guy Fawkes masks in order to voice their disapproval of federal Internet laws.
“I’m here for internet freedom. There’s restrictions on speaking online. That’s why I’m here,” a 19-year-old student named Amisha, who attended the Mumbai event, told Vaidyanathan.
“India is following China and Iran. They don’t want the right information to reach people,” added a 20-year-old student Nishant, whose identity was obscured by sunglasses and a scarf. “There are some sites they’ve blocked for information which is relevant to us. Information which is useful to us as citizens of this country.”
Thousands had agreed to participate in the rallies, but far less actually turned out on Saturday, with members being “for the most part invisible” during the first hour, Abhimanyu Chandra of the weekly news magazine Tehelka reported. Furthermore, Chandra added that journalists, policemen, and tourists joined the actual protestors during the gathering, and that not everyone in attendance agreed with the group’s methods.
“I am unsure about their means of seeking their ends. Systematic taking down of websites… I’m not sure how I feel about that,” a Mumbai-based college student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Tehelka. Likewise, another referred to the group as “hypocritical” and adding, “You cannot fight authoritarianism by yourself being authoritarian. Hacking is a sort of violence,” while others expressed doubt that the protests would change anything.
“The Saturday evening protest included the distribution and presentation of Anonymous paraphernalia. Leaflets were distributed and Guy Fawkes masks were also available,” Chandra said. “A banner read: ‘The Corrupt Fear Us. The Honest Support Us. The Heroic Join Us.’ Posters proclaimed: ‘You can censor the internet, but not my mind;’ and ‘If the government shuts down the internet, keep calm and shut down the government.;”
“While it teemed with activity and conversation, the event was marked with some disorganization and a low turnout,” the Tehelka writer added. “Initially scheduled to take place at the Gateway of India, it was eventually held at Azad Maidan [and] the Delhi protest too saw a low turnout at Jantar Mantar.”
In related news on Saturday, officials from India’s top agency for dealing with cybersecurity contingencies told the Times of India that their website had not been attacked or taken offline, despite claims made by hackers affiliated with Anonymous earlier in the day.
The cyberattackers had claimed to have brought down the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) homepage with a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, but officials with the organization told the newspaper that those claims were “without any basis and at complete variance with the facts. The fact is that the website has been running continuously & uninterruptedly — including the whole of today.”
Despite those claims, reporters with the Times said that they were unable to access the CERT-IN website on Saturday morning for “a few hours,” and that “a check with www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com, a tool that can tell a web user if a website is down or not, revealed that CERT-IN was inaccessible.”
Last Wednesday, Anonymous also claimed that they had attacked the corporate website of state-owned telecommunications provider Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited.
The hackers claiming responsibility for the attack, which took down the company’s homepage for a minimum of six hours, said that they were targeted because they censored online content by blocking several file sharing websites, the Associated Press (AP) reported on June 6.