Anonymous #OPindia hacks Kapil Sibal’s website


A file photo of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.
The Hindu A file photo of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal.

Nov 30,2012

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal’s personal website has been hacked and defaced allegedly by Anonymous India group for the minister’s stand on IT Act.

The website was on Thursday attacked and contents were altered to show the minister in poor light.

Mr. Sibal, who represents the Chandni Chowk constituency in Parliament, uses this portal to interact with his constituency.

While most of the website has been restored, certain sections such as blogs, gallery, speeches and conversation were still not working.

While no official comment was immediately available, a source in the minister’s office said the website is an old one and had not been updated for sometime now.

The Twitter account of Anonymous India (@opindia_revenge), a group against Internet censorship and curbs on free speech, said Mr. Sibal’s site was getting “trolled“.

“The time to sit silently is gone. Call your friends and get them to protests sites,” said a link posted on the Twitter handle.

Meanwhile, the government on Friday said about 294 websites belonging to various ministries and government departments were hacked in the January-October 2012 period.

“A total number of 201, 303, 308 and 294 websites belonging to various ministries and departments in the government were hacked during the year 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 (till October), respectively,” Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora said.

Five reasons why India can’t censor the internet-removed by TOI, HT,ET

Prasanto K  Roy, 12,  Nov 2012
Among all my columns and articles on various technology subjects (which are all still around), I just discovered that my pieces on censorship are being removed by the media sites.For instance, this reproduced below from Google’s cache of the original TOI piece. This was carried on TOI, ET, HT and other places.
Now if you Google for “Five reasons why India can’t censor the internet”, you’ll see the top links are still to the TOI and ET stories, but click the links, and the stories are gone!
Interesting, isn’t it, given the subject?
There’s a second piece I wrote, critical of Kapil Sibal, which has been removed months after publication by TOI, ET and HT.

Five reasons why India can’t censor the Internet

In just 24 hours, in the Facebook alumni group of St Stephen’s College, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal’s ratings crashed faster than that of US President Barack Obama or what former telecom minister A. Raja, now in judicial custody over second generation (2G) spectrum case, ever had.

Five reasons why India can't censor the Internet

In a survey to pick star alumni for a big debating clash with counterparts from the rival college across the road, Sibal was on the top five a week ago — among other stellar Stephanians like Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, former federal minister Mani Shankar Aiyar or former UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor. No longer!

As the #Idiot hash-tag topped Twitter trends, some withdrew their votes for Sibal, and there were posts like “Chuck him across the road” — a scathing insult, equivalent to the Parsis’ excommunication.

Just a preview of the global firestorm over the next two days!

The fire wasn’t from anonymous teens. Seasoned analysts blasted Sibal. Investor Mahesh Murthy posted: “Censor this! 🙂 ! Five of the top 10 Twitter trends in India right now are: #IdiotKapilsibal, #KapilSibal, #Censorship, #FreeSpeech and #FreedomOfSpeech.”

All this, for just one statement from a politician not unknown for his foot-in-mouth disease? Not quite. For, he has the power to misuse and try to make it happen.

During the Anna Hazare movement, Sibal summoned representatives of the social networks. In a king-and-subjects interaction, he kept them waiting, then kept them standing in his room; gave them a pre-emptive dressing down; and snapped: ‘I don’t want any anti-government stuff on your networks. Fix it.’ There was no room for discussion.

So here’s a five-point Internet 101 for the illustrious Mr. Sibal.

1. The Internet cannot be edited: Duh! In an early Dilbert strip, the pointy-haired boss demanded that Dilbert ‘download’ the Internet and fax it to him. A decade down, it’s not so funny any more.

The Internet is not traditional media. India’s 1975 emergency and the media clampdown was possible because of the linear, broadcast nature of the old media. New media is distributed. No copy desk or censor board can ‘fix’ it. There is no editor to arrest. And, most content is hosted outside India’s jurisdiction.

2. User-generated content cannot be filtered: That would slow down the global Internet to a crawl, with posts appearing after days — even assuming so many ‘editors’ could be hired by, say, a Facebook or a Twitter.

Are phone operators responsible for ‘content’ carried on their networks — or their CEOs arrested if someone made a terror threat over a phone call? No, the telco is simply asked to help with the investigation — into who made the call.

Yes, Internet content has the permanence and public-impact potential that a phone call does not, but equally, it lends itself brilliantly to self-regulation.

3. Peer review works: Wikipedia is the best example. Who could have imagined that a user-created encyclopedia could be so objective, and comprehensive? Yes, anyone can go in and edit anything (barring entries like ‘Kapil Sibal’, which have been locked due to vandalism!).

If you make an inappropriate change, someone will come in and correct it. And so it is on Facebook or Twitter. Abusive posts will be reported, blocked, and the individuals knocked out of the site.

4. Draconian controls are not necessary: In this age of global cooperation on terror, companies cooperate. A rational request from India to Google or Facebook to bring down offensive content will be heard — regardless of jurisdiction.

5. Yes, there are precedents for Internet control, but…: Such censorship is in countries India doesn’t want to be — China, Pakistan, Myanmar or Saudi Arabia. Pakistan became a laughing stock when it issued a list of banned words for SMS messages. (That list is now standard reading for anyone wanting a quick lesson in present and future abuses that aren’t in any dictionary.)

The big daddy of ‘regulation’ is China, where everything is filtered, and if you break those filters, you are charged with treason. What a role model.

But wait.

Kapil Sibal knows all this, right? So why is this bright star from Harvard Law School and St. Stephen’s college now sounding so anachronistic in the Internet age? Is it the old ‘thou shalt display higher loyalty to the royal family than the prince himself’ mantra?

If Kapil Sibal is to defend himself against the charge of sycophancy, he is on a weak footing. There were many prior potential triggers for tackling social media, including fanatic religious posts, derogatory comments by Pakistan sympathisers, Anna Hazare, and more. That he finally picked a post that targeted Sonia Gandhi suggests that this was not out of serious, objective concern about India’s stability, security or secular fabric.

(The author is chief editor at technology publishers CyberMedia)


‘Our policy is to ban first and hear later’

A SENIORSupreme Court advocate, Rajeev Dhavan has been one of the most trenchant critics of censorship. His book Publish and Be Damned: Censorship and Intolerance in India examines the relationship between political and social censorship. On a winter evening in his South Delhi residence, Dhavan, 65, tells Shonali Ghosal why the liberal space can be easily throttled in India.

Are the seven heads under Article 19(2) too open to interpretation by the government to curb freedom of expression (FoE)?
The seven heads of reasonable restriction in Article 19(2) are interpreted mechanically. If it falls into that slot (defamation), the court will say (it’s a) reasonable restraint. Nobody examines defamation and contempt of law as reasonable restraints. Some of these restraints are huge. For example, public order, decency, morality can mean anything; friendly relations with foreign states is also ambiguous. Free speech would be suffocated. Although the Supreme Court has been strong in protecting FoE as in the case of Price and Page Act, 1962 and Bennett and Coleman on advertisements (1972), nevertheless this wooliness in Article 19(2) is over-extended not just by courts but also by civil society. We find a Shiv Sena interpretation, an RSS interpretation, a CM Modi interpretation and, regrettably, a CPM interpretation when it interfered with Taslima Nasrin’s book.
Can there be a realistic litmus test to determine what is or isn’t a reasonable restriction?
No, because all the categories are fungible. One must realise that the right is fundamental and not the restriction. This is why the government and people censoring have to say “is this the least invasive way we can interfere with each other’s speech?” This is a message to civil society that the Constitution is a principled document. Free speech can never be answered with violence. If those concerned with Salman Rushdie have something against The Satanic Verses, which I personally think is a brilliant interpretation, it should be words against words.

But shouldn’t an artist be allowed to contest another person’s right to be offended?
Everyone has a right to contest what anyone says but what one does not know is how, where and in what way will the contestation take place. The Constitution is abused in ways where the State, at times, has taken a lackadaisical approach to free speech. The Satanic Verses was banned under the Custom’s Act, it was never given a chance to be heard. The policy is to ban first and hear later.

Are we killing the liberal space in India by arming and encouraging all objectionists alike?
The so-called liberal space where people talk and reason with each other is very easily throttled. Take the Khushwant Singh versus Maneka Gandhi case, the HC order stood for years until Sanjay Kaul reversed it. Getting injunction from the court on whatever ground is easy like in the cases of Khushboo and MF Husain where criminal complaints have been filed. Even Justice AM Ahmadi refused to aggregate all cases in one court. The process is the punishment — civil or criminal. Just going through the process of arrest, of bail, of being banned is enough to unsettle anyone.

With ‘offended individuals’ filing cases, artists have to keep attending to cases across the country. While protecting the right to object, isn’t the law neglecting the artist?
The unfortunate law is that a case can be filed wherever the offending exercise of free speech reaches. Former editors tell me that people filed cases in Assam just to make it inconvenient. One recent development that is worrying is that Mumbai has become the defamation capital. The reason: outside Maharashtra, the fees you have to pay is ad valorem fee (in proportion to the amount claimed). In Mumbai, the fee levels out so that you can claim huge amounts on low fee as was witnessed in the Justice PB Sawant case where the court ordered 100 crore damages. You don’t have to pay through your nose by way of fees. In Maharashtra, defamation has become a game to intimidate and harass. The corporates do very well on this.

‘The process is the punishment — just going through arrest, bail or being banned can unsettle anyone’

Should there be a distinction between content one can avoid (a book, a television show) and that you can’t (billboards) when citing disrespect or indecency?
Freedom of speech is subject to time and place. If you’re in a crowd and you say something to someone, that’s immediate. You have the option to read or not read a magazine. Many countries mark sections of magazine stores if they stock adult content. But all this content is available on the net. There are ways, at least on TV to restrain channels. Internet access is another thing altogether but you don’t break a walnut with a sledgehammer as Mr Sibal wants to do. These things require debate rather than the knee-jerk reactions of Kapil Sibal and Markandey Katju.

Shouldn’t we define the caveat about incitement of violence much more narrowly?
Categories on which reasonable restrictions can be made have to be reasonably broad but require Constitutional interpretation to ensure that you don’t ban plays like Tamas or a film like Ore Oru Gramathile. The court has been good in the late ’80s and early ’90s, which is evident from cases like The Bandit Queen where the Delhi High Court took a very aggressive view to cut out portions, which would’ve been removed. The Supreme Court reversed the order as it should have. Intolerance to free speech is on the increase and we don’t know how to deal with it.

Shonali Ghosal is a Correspondent with Tehelka.


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