Indian ISPs targeted in Anonymous censorship protest

Their websites have been attacked as blocks on some file-sharing sites continue

The websites of Indian government-run communications company Mahanagar Telephone Nigam and the Internet Service Providers Association of India faced DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks from Anonymous on Wednesday as some Internet service providers continue to block file-sharing websites following a court order.

ISPs are only following the orders of the court which are supreme, said Rajesh Chharia, president of ISPAI, who was doubtful that the association's website had been affected by the hackers.

The Indian arm of Anonymous previously attacked some government websites, and those of some political parties. Last month, users reported that the hackers tinkered with the service of a large ISP, Reliance Communications, redirecting its users from sites like Facebook and Twitter to a protest page. The hackers also claimed to have attacked the website and servers of Reliance, and got access to a large list of URLs blocked by the company. Reliance denied its servers were hacked.

The attacks follow a March court order directing ISPs to prevent a newly released local movie from being available online in pirated versions. Some ISPs blocked some file-sharing sites altogether, rather than any offending URLs. The measures taken by the ISPs have differed depending on their interpretation of the order, Chharia said.

Some websites such as The Pirate Bay continue to be blocked by some ISPs and carried the message, "This website/URL has been blocked until further notice either pursuant to Court orders or on the Directions issued by the Department of Telecommunications." Pastebin is also not accessible through some ISPs.

Internet service providers are against censorship, and also against piracy, Chharia said. "It is up to the government and various groups to come to a resolution," he added. The responsibility of intermediaries has been a controversial issue in India, with some Internet companies including Google and Facebook sued in court late last year for objectionable content found on their sites.

Anonymous meanwhile plans on June 9 what it describes as non-violent protests across many cities in India against censorship of the Internet in the country. It claims to have already received police permission for some of the protests.

The scope of the protests has widened to include demands for changes in the India's Information Technology Act, which among other things allows the government to block websites under certain conditions, and also allows the removal of online content by notice to ISPs. The government is also in the process of framing rules that will put curbs on freedom on social media, according to the hacker group.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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