Saturday 16 June 2012

Anonymous v. India

About 1.2 billion people live in India. And while only a minority of them have internet access, that minority adds up to about 120 million people and is growing quickly. And like the people and governments of so many other countries, the citizens and politicians of India are struggling with digital rights and censorship.

Last weekend, online hacktivist group Anonymous organized public protests against online censorship in India. And while the turnout for the demonstrations was pretty sparse, the group is now calling on Indian citizens to file Right to Information requests of public servants in an effort to expose communications between politicians and ISPs pertaining to censorship.

In one of their signature video messages, Anonymous says that Indian politicians are not only out of touch with the modern internet, but enforcing and encouraging policies that work in opposition to the legitimate pursuit of information and for criminals who know how to game the system.

People of India, we have been watching. We have been noting the perversion of freedoms to the point where barriers are increasingly restrictive. The politicians whose websites are primitive for the previous decade are deciding from their ignorant perches how the internet of today must be. Their lack of understanding of how content is shared, spread or accessed on the internet makes their restrictive plans ridiculous for any criminal who actually would want to bypass those restrictions, while they serve to keep the common man ignorant of anything they do not wish them to know. It is time to expose this ignorant intolerance for what it is.

It should be noted that SumRando in no way endorses illegal file sharing or any type of copyright violation. However, as we’ve previously stated, attempting to enforce intellectual property laws through censorship is never acceptable.

Internet censorship has been a long-standing issue in India and can be traced all the way back to 1999 with the censorship of Pakistani websites. The latest round of controversy stemmed from a High Court decision to block several file-sharing sites including Vimeo and the Pirate Bay that made two popular Bollywood movies available for download. (For a little dose of irony, it’s worth noting that one of those films, “3”, only gained popularity after a song from the movie went viral on the internet.)

So here’s the thing. India appears to be at a crossroads. As the internet-using population grows – again, only about 10% currently surf the web – the country will need to decide what kind of digital landscape they want. Will they follow the oppressive firewall policies we’ve seen in China and Iran? Or will they favor the largely open infrastructure in place in many (but definitely not all) Western countries?

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