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Hacking and online activist group Anonymous has been linked to attacks to Japanese government websites, which briefly brought down ministry and judiciary websites. The group, which uses the Twitter account @op_japan has claimed responsibility, and said the attacks were due to the Japanese government’s proposed anti-piracy legislation.
The Japanese anti-piracy bill aims to impose jail terms on users who illegally download copyrighted content. Anonymous said in its website that this would “result in scores of unnecessary prison sentences to numerous innocent citizens.”
The websites of the Finance Ministry, Supreme Court and two political parties — the DPJ and LDP — were brought down by the hack attacks. Finance Ministry official Takanari Horino said that the web pages have been defaced, and the hackers put up an unauthorized link. These sites have since been restored to service.
According to the proposed anti-piracy bill, the act of “downloading of copyrighted works knowing that they are not free and that it is illegal,” could result in fines up to two-million yen (US$ 25 300), a prison sentence of up to two years, or both. However, Anonymous claims that this proposed law would do “little to solve the underlying problem of legitimate copyright infringement.” On its website anonpr.net, the group said that “the content industry is now pushing ISPs in Japan to implement surveillance technology that will spy on … every single internet user. This would be an unprecedented approach and severely reduce the amount of privacy law abiding citizens should have in a free society.”
Anonymous also released a video, stating that the attack was in protest to the “disproportionate nature of the punishments” and the timing of the bill’s appearance in parliament. In the video, the group says that the Japanese government used the arrest of the last remaining fugitive of the 1995 sarin gas attack as a cover to draw attention away from the piracy bill. “The haste and secrecy with which this law was pushed through without debate, using the cover of a major news event to hide it from the eyes of the public, is dispicable and reveals the full extent of the Japanese government’s cowardice, contempt for the basic principles of democracy and lack of respect towards all citizens,” it says.
Members of the collective have been staging protests elsewhere. Earlier this month, Anonymous in India has also protested against internet censorship in the country, particularly with the courts ordering a blanket ban on file-sharing websites and torrent sites like The Pirate Bay. The group also claimed responsibility for breaking into 500 websites in China this April, which includes government websites, and websites run by business groups.