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Making this quick and painless.

Today, supporters of two Indian political parties claimed to be the first political party to have crowd sourced manifestos. Aam Aadmi Party and Congress.

Just want to say that this is not true. I have no idea if it was the first, but to the best of my knowledge, it seems the Pirate Party of Sweden was the first party to have a crowd sourced manifesto.

A moment of irony, because if it had patented this political party manifesto making method, they would have had the fastest rising political party in India and the biggest political party in India using their intellectual property. :p

For those who don't know, Pirate Party believes that ideas must be free and holds copyright reform as among its core goals.

Writing this post specifically, because I am normally a vocal supporter of Anonymous and their efforts in freeing the internet. This is one action I do not support.

A few days ago, I retweeted a link to a leak of police data by Anonymous. I should have checked the file first. Contrary to my expectation that there would be important information of interest to the public, it turned out to be a general catalog of complaints made to the police, and while there are enough allegations about all kinds of things, there are unsubstantiated personal views of people filing complaints, and the kind of stuff you would expect to be passing through any police station.

Today,  after reading a news story on the leak, I checked the files again, and am convinced that Anonymous made a mistake. This leak does not serve any purpose of fighting government wrongs against citizens, and puts the private information of a lot of people at risk, since while numbers and emails were redacted, names, addresses and so on were not. In my imagination, this was a part of the fight Anonymous was supporting - to protect privacy, but it clearly seems to have gone awry somewhere.

In the article, Anonymous do mention that they are capable of learning from mistakes and it is my suggestion that they make all efforts they can to delete these files off the internet, communicate whatever vulnerability they used to gain access to the database to the police so that it can be fixed and avoid leaks of personal information in the future.

Crossing boundaries of privacy is not useful in a movement that fights censorship and spying on personal information.

8

Dear Anonymous,

Congratulations on your first successful protests in India, and what a way to begin - a dozen cities at the same time!

June 9 happened and Internet Freedom Activists protested in several cities of India.Astonishingly, the call sent out by Anonymous India survived the considerable propaganda machine and made it to the real world. This is no mean achievement for an entity that has just come into bring and spent two weeks or so in promoting their first protest. An entity without any financial or organizational backing to enable protests anywhere.

Considering this, it is amazing that volunteers from various cities organized protests at their own expense and initiative. I also applaud the courage of those who protested. It is very easy to protest in a crowd. You go with the flow. When your group is small, and your goal is already under systematic attack, it takes exceptional courage to be the few men (or women) standing in the spotlight.

Not only did these organizers promote the protests and convince increasing numbers of people to join in, they managed to fund it too. In a few cases, small local groups supported voluntarily, in other places, the protesters didn't know each other at all. It is a tribute to Anonymous striking a note of inspiration that this is possible, and I applaud the call you took and your success in its manifestation. I admit that I was one of the few very skeptical people who thought that the protests would either not happen, or worse happen with really few people in very few locations.

I supported your cause, no doubt, but I didn't think India was ready to speak out on censorship to this extent after struggling to raise support for the Freedom Fast in Delhi recently. I didn't think it possible, but true to the advice I got in one of the interviews, I, being one who thought it was not possible, did not get in the way of people doing it. And it was good advice. Thrilled to be proved wrong.

The response was mixed. The earliest sign of trouble came when the police in Cochin "arrested" six protesters after their protest was done. There was much anger (including by me) but it later turned out that the Cochin police not being informed of the protest had detained them for questioning about the protest and let them go after taking their personal details and making a few veiled threats about them being questioned if there was further trouble.

The worst response of the state happened in Hyderabad and Kolkata. In Hyderabad the protests were supported by the Free Software Movement of India. Protesters were threatened by a senior police officer with arrest and confiscation of protest materials including T-Shirts. They were forced to negotiate when the activists stood their ground and the protest was relocated to the nearby Indira Park with a police escort.

Mamatadidi's Kolkata shines once more - not. About 200 protesters arrived for the protest, and were confronted by the police who allowed them 15 min silent protest. Varying accounts on exact methods  agreed that Police noted details and allowed to protest as a split group to look less visible. There were worrisome accounts of indirect intimidation and veiled threats. It says much about the paranoia in Kolkata over dissent that when the police started noting personal details of protesters, the number dropped to a fourth of what it was. Further, after they were forced to leave, when they assembled at a nearby park, plainclothesmen started taking photos of them without any regard to their refusals. At which point they disbanded. But the cops weren't done. They started making individual calls to the numbers they collected interrogating them about their intent and questions like how long they were "gathering online to make protests". Very insane. Mamata Banerjee is increasingly looking like a very worrisome dictator.

And then our President Pratibha Patil shines once more for being anti-people and possibly without even being aware of what gets perpetrated in her name. Protesters in Pune were refused permission to protest anywhere in the city because the President was in the city. Now Pune is huge. Surely there was one corner the President was not Occupying that the common man could Occupy? No such thing. While they did not deny permission on record, they did not give it either (classic Indian red tape). Pune decided to go ahead anyway, but the response was reluctant.

I am interested in knowing how you plan to work around such blocks, because these are important to address, and they hit a lot of citizens routinely if they want to protest anything.

From all accounts, the protests in other places went well. The most life affirming response came in Mumbai, where a protester actually reported that one of the senior officials at Azad Maidan recommended that they repeat their protest soon, if they did not get a good response first time. Win, Mumbai, this is how you win hearts. Hoezaay attended the protest both to support and to report and has a heart warming account of Occupy Mumbai on his blog. A rare worldview, where he staunchly supports the movement, and acknowledges disagreements including areas he doesn't support at all without letting it undermine his firm assertion of the value of the protest in any way. Worth reading.

Occupy Bangalore, Occupy Delhi looked very fun too. The support to the Bangalore protests by FSMK (Free Software Movement Karnataka) who had a parallel protest against the IT Rules was also very appreciated.

Specially worth mentioning is that I was astonished to see that the protests in less publicized places like Calicut, Chandigarh, Jaipur or Manipal go so well. I heard that there was a small protest at Chennai too. They hardly got any attention, but it needs to be acknowledged that they not only have internet users, but they have internet users willing to own a stake in shaping the country's access to the internet. I think this speaks well for our future.

I missed information on Nagpur, Indore, Ahmedabad. I don't think protests happened there.

The response to the protests online was one of initial skepticism followed by a section of people enthusiastically following and spreading news of the various protests. Contemptuous comments about the size of the response persisted, but frankly, I don't give them any weight. In my view, the Anonymous protests were a roaring success. We, of the masala expectations want to see oceans of people to count a protest as successful, since that is the new "benchmark" since the JanLokpal protests. However, the popcorn gallery needs to get a reality check, in my view. Team Anna's protests are coordinated from a central point, backed by organizations with grassroots networks in large swathes of the country. They have funding. They ran SMS campaigns, and did a thousand other things. The handling of the protest is a study in promotion and it was fueled by outrage in the population over corruption.

In comparison, the Anonymous protests are ad hoc. You have no iconic figures, no centralized decision making, no organized reach into the population. Additionally, while almost everyone who understands our IT Act and Rules is outraged, in the physical world, the population of internet users is about 10% and over 99% of those have little awareness of issues like censorship. They will wake up when something they took for granted will not work anymore, or if something they said gets wiped out. Until then, the issue of censorship is not something they expect. Indeed, most Indian users of the internet actually assume Freedom of Expression as described in the US constitution for all intents and purposes. They are not even aware that they could be silenced for being something as subjective as "offensive". Even fewer may be willing to make the effort to actually go to a place and voice support for an idea that their government wants to criminalize. Considering this, the numbers are nothing short of a miracle.

It is a mark of the call of Anonymous capturing the needs and imagination of the people that they can go from being unknowns to having protests in over a dozen cities within a few weeks. A person discounting this has failed to see what is happening among people. Kudos!

That said, I have a few suggestions for Anonymous:

  1. Don't use privately owned public locations (like Malls) for protests unless you know and trust the owning entities as supporters of freedom of speech. It is too easy to evict protesters from private property (even under "inspiration" from the government). Ideally, it should not be so if the protest is not disruptive, seeing as how anyone can enter a mall, and wearing masks is not illegal in India, but remember what we are fighting? Censorship. We have an environment where raising voice against the status quo is almost criminalized by default. We can fight this, but it has to be a separate fight, or it will sabotage this one.
  2. Don't ask for permissions. I have been following your protests with avid interest (including lurking with a nick and being kicked for it) and I have seen that the biggest hurdle to organizing the protests was permissions, which were difficult to get and often for inexplicable reasons. Naturally, if you don't want to break laws, you will have to plan protests that won't need permissions. Smaller groups, other ways of being visible, whatever... and keep the large protests on the ground for special occasions.
  3. Not to mention the fact that apparently you can't protest as an individual in India. Only organizations get permissions to protest. This is very strange and a whole subject in itself. I suggest formally using Anonymous as the name of an organization and if needed, getting someone to register it in some form, so that all future individual protests in the country can simply put Anonymous as the protesting organization and reclaim their freedom to protest - regardless of whether they are Anonymous or not. This will directly make you heroes for many.
  4. The information needs to be documented and organized for easy reference. I know that since all of you are individuals, this is not easy to manage. I will try and help you with this. If/when I get time, or you should ask bloggers and other internetizens who may have time to volunteer and create timelines and archives of links.
  5. While we haven't had much success overturning censorship so far, there are several individuals and organizations working hard to get the IT Rules revoked, for example. They already have in depth and very responsibly conducted research in place, as well as plans on how to make it happen. Anonymous should consider following news on this and throwing their power behind such efforts, since this is one of your goals too. For example, the recent Stop IT Rules Campaign and the Freedom Fast. There are other efforts being made. If you wish, I can try and find out information on this for you. Or, I suppose you have your ways.
  6. While DDoS or defacing attacks are your chosen method, I think if you must break laws and risk your safety for it, then the payoff ought to be higher. In your place I would certainly not risk my safety over blocking access to a site, that too temporarily. Instead, you should focus more on releasing information pertaining to corruption and other damage being done to the country. Information that would otherwise not be accessible to people.
  7. You should consider creating an RTI archive, where people can send you copies of documents they receive through RTI and you make them public - after a certain delay if needed, if there are stories being released on their basis. Such documents should be carefully tagged with all related keywords and be searchable for people needing information. This will propel the country's struggle toward transparency and accountability, provide activists with far larger quantities of information than they can from individual efforts. They will help provide a layer of safety for the lives of RTI activists as well as resist all attempts at silencing. Operation RTI, may I recommend? Additional bonus, you will get a lot of volunteers because it will be totally legal. I can help you with setting it up if needed. I am also willing t host or admin it, but this project cannot be run by a single individual. It will become too large. I will need volunteers.

That I support Anonymous is no secret. I support all efforts at creating a change toward freedoms and inclusion. I supported Team Anna, I support Satyamev Jayate, I support women's rights advocates, I support the campaign to get rid of the IT Rules, I think all these ways collectively add to the momentum. I am not bothered by the flaws of any method as long as they don't harm life and limb, because I have not yet encountered any call for change that was perfect. In my view, change comes through continuous improvement, not perfect solutions. We are a living culture, and we learn from our experiences. To block change for fear of imperfections is a symptom of a defensive mind that fears failure. In my view, rather than block something "because it will not work", it is far more useful to allow it to try and work, and if it doesn't work, it can't be used anyway. In that sense, I may not be a hacker or support some of the methods used by you, but I certainly accept that there is a very real need you are trying to address, and I respect that.

Or in other words, I don't appreciate the idea of servers being attacked. I don't think it is legal, but I think our situation on censorship is far worse. If that is what it takes, I would compare it with stealing the codes of a nuclear bomb to defuse it. Sure, it is stealing, but heck yes, it helps.

I also accept and understand when you say that the advantages such protest offers you may be the only way the protest can be sustained. Words from the interview remain in my mind. You can't be silenced or defamed. Therefore you will be heard. I think you have a point there, when all kinds of dissent is not allowed to stand by personal attacks and discrediting of anyone raising questions, perhaps it is necessary to let the questions stand on their own without anyone to sabotage attached.

There are many things to say. The idea of Anonymous has always fascinated me ever since I heard it. In fact, this blog is founded on a similar idea, though opposite in many ways. You leave behind identity, I use identity as an expression of one reality in the country. But the focus on ideas being the driving force for change is the same. You are the idealism of a generic, nameless human, I am an example human standing as an expression of the reality of many such people. The same idea, abstracted in different ways.

So Anonymous as an idea is very precious to me. And I do believe that it is possible to do great things if we are able to leave behind our identities and image obsessions and work purely in the realm of valuing ideas regardless of source, on their own merit.

I wish you the very best.

With love,

Vidyut

2

Greetings People of India

Anonymous for the past many weeks had been protesting against the attack by governments and corporations on the freedom of speech and expression
guaranteed to to every Indian citizen by the Constitution of india.

The protest began when the Indian ISPs began blocking file sharing sites and other websites under the order of the madras high court.

But was understood as and over done circus due to the fact that entire websites became unavailable when in reality specific URLs were to be blocked.

This we see as an attack on the right to free speech.

The government today censors almost all medias, the press is heavily controlled and hence is unable to speak the truth frankly without taking sides.

During this time it is the Social Media that exist on the Internet that helps people share and know the truth. This is the reason why the government is desperately trying to control the internet.
Once the INTERNET is censored we will loose the last and final tool we have left to exercise  our freedom of speech and opinions.

Saying that we have right to speak freely and not giving us a tool is a totalitarian system where a sense of false freedom is induced.
Hence we Anonymous are today calling to the Indian public to stand up and start fighting.

You the people are the power that should be ruling your country.
And not a group of powerful and wealthy corporations and politicians.

On June 9th we will be organizing massive protests in multiple locations all over the country and we are calling every one who can be there to be there.
We remind the Indian public that trusting a corrupt government to solve corruption and other problems is like expecting a serial killer to catch himself.

The movements will assigned within the title of Occupy India that will be kicked off this June 9th

The Cities that are getting ready to take part are Bangalore Delhi Mumbai Culcutta Chennai Kochi Mumbai Hydrabad and many more.
Any one who feels they need this movement needs to be in their city can start a FB page for the Occupy City movement and let us know about it.
We call on the people to help spread this message and get your friends and family to join this noble cause.

 This is to be a 100% Non-Violent Civil rights protest.

We will be updating the all the required information to http://opindia.posterous.com/anonymous-to-stage-street-protest-on-9th-june
Our twitter handle @OpIndia_Back can be used to communicate with us any time.
As planned the protest will take place by 3PM IST on June 9th the Saturday.

The directives for the safety and proper functioning of the protest is available at  http://pastehtml.com/view/bzi0nxrkz.html

 Remember people of India if you do not wake up and fight, No One Else will do it for you.

We are calling for the 99% to rise against the 1% who is trying to steal from their great nation and make them their slaves.
We call to you India Rise India
We are with you and let us together start the revolution to make this place a better one

We ALSO CLEARLY DISCLAIM ANY CLAIMS BY POLITICAL PARTIES OR GROUPS IN SUPPORT OF US
WE DO NOT LINK WITH ANY GROUP AND ANY GROUP THAT TRY TO LINK SO IS TRYING TO FOOL THE PEOPLE

 Time to rise up

 WE are Anonymous

 We Do not Forgive

 We do not Forget

 And Yes We are a Legion

 EXPECT US

 Jai Hind

7

Anonymous has always fascinated me. It was with great interest that I heard of Operation India being "engaged". I liked it that they were picking up on censorship to protest. I thought that DDoS attacks were a lot of trouble for little result beyond the time of the attack and illegal as well. Sites being defaced were outright scary illegal. But I liked the reasons. I realized that most people had no idea of Anonymous in any factual sense. I decided to find out. Yesterday, I went on their IRC channel to interview whoever was there to get an idea of the thinking and actions of Anonymous for India.

 

The first message on entering is automated.

Lulzboat- [#opIndia] "The Department of Telecom has ordered all internet service providers to block all file sharing websites, it's time for you to stand up and show that the corrupt government cannot stop you!"

I introduced myself on the #OpIndia channel and was immediately asked to return with a fake ID. I explained that i was not there to participate, but as a real person, blogger with a real identity wanting to find out more about them. I was quickly directed to another channel called #AnonymousINDIA - #OpIndia was not for chatting. Presenting snapshot quotes and answers gathered for some questions I asked them.

Operation India was started by NetCak3 and Vlad. BitMentor is an experienced and active Anon,and consented to speak with me. Participating in it is strictly individual choice. Anons themselves as individuals under a collective identity and there is no leader deciding for everyone. More like whoever wants to lead starts walking and everyone finding it interesting walk along. I was interested in what made BitMentor start Operation India and other anons join in. Corruption, censorship, illegal silencing that powerful entities get away with and such seemed recurring themes. The block on websites which also were extensively used in legal ways. Examples included VIMEO being used for sharing videos that were owned by the uploader or "open licence" or softwares like OpenOffice having official torrents for distributing. "we would not have cared if they had found the unloaders and arrested them [on piracy, illegal content]"

They spoke of three kinds of blocks. The first was a block of sites that could potentially pirate content. The second was to block sites that can allow anonymous sharing of content - Pastebin, for example. The third was specific targets. A list of blocked sites they got off the Reliance servers had a lot of urls containing "Satish Seth", which they say they investigated because it seemed curious and found no court order for (it is possible that there may be one that is not online). Satish Seth was an employee of Reliance arrested in the course of the 2G scam investigations. Pages including those on major news sites like telegraphindia and moneycontrol were on the list. Blogs on blogspot, tumblr, profiles on twitter, linkedIn. These pages open without any problem for me from an MTNL connection, which would not have been the case if this was a ban from a court order or DOT.

At first sight, I thought the sites were spoofs or insulting in some way. Possibly some may have been, but others seemed to be fairly innocuous. For example, the page on moneycontrol.com is the fourth page of the search results for the term satish seth. This page would be changing with news being added. Also, why not the first, second or third? Very strange.

In #OpIndia, the blocking of 400+ sites is something that is cause for alarm about the state of free speech. It indicates presumption of guilt unless proved innocent. And they are fighting to force such blocks back. However, the question in my mind was "by what means?" What plans does Operation India have? Answers ranged from DDoS attacks and defacements to protests on the ground. There was a whole range of alternatives ranging from the fairly straightforward to the illegal.

I asked them what justified the breaking of laws as a method of protest. Some answers I got, I don't buy. Defacements being peaceful protests in the sense of them not harming the server beyond replacing the front page or that DDoS attacks were the equivalent of thousands of people walking into a restaurant with a capacity for only hundred. Still others asked "where is the proof that we did it?" or that they were fighting things that were illegal or oppressive to begin with. In my eyes, this doesn't wash. You take thousands into a restaurant with a capacity for a hundred people with the sole purpose of paralyzing it? Entering a privately owned server without authorization and through bypassing security or exploiting vulnerabilities? It would be the real life equivalent of a person breaking into a home or office saying he did no harm, only painted all doors and windows black.

They know the risks. Indeed, the top of the page makes it clear "Anonymous Is no game, You must be aware of the risks and yet be brave, because this is a revolution. Some may fall but oure cause wont." The confidence as well as the outrage is clear. "We create every technology they use, and they expect to use it to control us. That is an idea of fighting the creator with his creation."

There are blurred boundaries. "soon we will hack computer of all corrupt Indians" said one. Some thought he was over reaching. Yet, there was a question a reader wanted asked about if anonymous would hack and get details of corrupt politicians with money in Swiss banks. Inside Anonymous or outside, disillusioned, angry minds think similar. But there is always the question of actual ability as well as the difficulty balancing what is right and wrong. For example, not all politicians are necessarily corrupt.

Which brought me to the question of how they decided targets. By consensus/vote - as expected. By now, I understood a little of this band of virtual Merry Men. But what happens when some Anons go converse to the interests of others? An example being the #OpKashmir that ran a few days ago, targeting Indian sites. It claims to represent the people of Kashmir independently of either India or Pakistan, yet the Operation targets onlyIndian sites - specifically those of the J&K government and the Army. While OpKashmir seems to be announced from an Anonymous website, the operation itself is claimed by The Hackers Army and their earlier post makes no mention of Anonymous. They had also launched #OPfreePalestine in which they hacked thousands of Israeli websites.

Vidyut, you never know who is behind #opkashmir

Some people use name of Anonymous just for personal grudges

 We will not only not hit it [Army website] we will do what it takes to protect it if required

While, to put it in their own words, they cannot stop anyone from being Anonymous, people on the #OpIndia were one voice on this. They see this as a political agenda which is not really what Anonymous is about. They have developed guidelines. They never target infrastructure. Which is how the websites for irctc, banks, BSE and media may up as suggestions, but are quickly negated as targets. This last - media - was particularly surprising, considering that there is a lot of bitterness about paid media (more on this in a bit), but they see the flow of information to people as infrastructure. However, these nuances (or eccentricities) are not very clear. For example, today, all day the RBI website has been solidly down. Is that because the common man doesn't interact with the RBI website? I don't know. We don't interact with the Army website either.

"Are the people on #OpIndia Indians?" Anonymous claims no nationality. However to "Are Indians on this channel?" the answer was a resounding yes. Actually, it was an unnecessary question by then. It was also clear from the chatter on the channel. This was a surprise when I first entered, because from all my reading of Anonymous, it had never occured to me that Indians were active in Anonymous. It had always seemed a Western phenomenon. But they operate as Anonymous and beyond nationality too and vice versa. Anons from Venezula defaced goodgov.in in support of Operation India.  Still, "Many Indians are there on most Ops world wide." took me completely by surprise.

We also talked about security. The lack of reporting of the defacing of the Big Cinemas Website ("if people suffer from these attacks, and they can't see movie 1 weekend, they would understand") was something that raised anger on behalf of people. As proof, the "hacktivists" had copied ticket booking details. According to BitMentor, this is a serious security breach. This ought to have been reported. While he says that their team did not take any Credit Card information, the fact that the vulnerability is there makes it within the realm of possibility that someone else could [or already did]. "BlackHats who wanted the data would have found it years ago." I don't know how easy or possible it is to retrieve or hack such information or to use it once they get it. I am simply reporting the conversation.

Anonymous had been bringing down government sites for a week without a word from the government - either acknowledgment or admonishment. However, the day after the attack on the Reliance website, the accounts for Operation India on both Facebook and Twitter were deleted. This cannot be an action by the social media service providers themselves because hundreds of anonymous accounts exist on both without any problem unless they are reported for child pornography or such from a very small and specific list of reasons. Incidentally, this would do nothing to secure the sites that got hacked.

Another thing that came up was the quality of CERTand Cyber Cell:

This claim directly led to a flood of tweets with screenshots clearly showing that the CERT website was down and for a long time.

BitMentor: Then we have CERT - Computer Emergency Response Team and the Cyber Cell - both these in India are over glorified. The reason they could solve many crimes is because the criminals were not good at it. Not because they were Shelock and Watson.

Me: What exactly would you say is wrong with them?

BitMentor: The problem with this idea is that you are never safe. Nothing wrong with them, the truth is that no one can do better, but that better is useless.

Me: So what should they do? There are cyber crimes happening

BitMentor: Educate people, and make laws to control the companies and not the internet. Eg: if law exist that a company can't store Credit Card data, no one can take it easily.

Had Anonymous been able to change policy or governments before? "SOPA and PIPA have been dropped". The government in Egypt changed. What did they plan for India?  They want to get the blocks on sharing sites reversed to earlier method of blocking urls instead of entire sites used by millions of people - many of whom didn't even watch films of the type being protected from piracy. However, there were idealistic long term visions too. The resolve was firm that any eroding of human freedoms would be fought with all means at their disposal.

When I shared the supportive messages and appreciation for their fight for freedoms, their reply was simple. "Tell them they are our power, help us fight". I remarked that while many may be angry over the same things they were fighting, most people would hesitate to cross legal lines or lack technical knowledge. "All of us are not techies. Ask them to spread message, to organize protests." "Speak up." "Tell them to do it before protesting is banned too" "They need to wake up, No country or place was ever saved by the government while the people slept."

They have a date - 9th June - by which they expect the government to reverse the blocks, or they have protests planned on the ground. Beyond that? It is anybody's guess. What is clear is that the Anonymous are in India and they are here to stay.