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EU Parliament site hit by hacktivists

Thursday 26 January 2012 – by Andrew Hickley

The European Parliament has found itself the latest victim of the internet activist group Anonymous, which has taken down the parliament’s website in protest at controversial proposals.

The opposition is to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an international treaty aiming to harmonise intellectual copyright protection standards across a number of industries.

Opponents have hit out at the legislation for what they argue has been a secretive consultation programme, fearing that the treaty could open the way for service providers to release information which could lead to widespread legal action against alleged internet piracy.

With the ACTA agreement – which has already been signed by US, Australia, Canada and Japan, among others – needing ratification in the European Parliament before being applied across Europe, the group appears to have taken down the parliament’s website in an effort to raise awareness of the issue.

Having been signed by the national representatives on Thursday, ACTA will need the parliament’s ratification, which is likely to be decided upon in a plenary vote in the middle of June, for the agreement to take effect.

An alert from Anonymous’ twitter feed, posted on Wednesday, warned: “ALERT: #ACTA Will Be Signed by the European Union and Member State Territories tomorrow – EXPECT US!”

A parliament spokesperson said that the website had been hit by a “denial of access attack”, though it could not say who was behind the move or when access would be restored.

The shutdown follows on from a day-long ‘blackout’ of internet sites, orchestrated by the likes of Wikipedia last week, where all of the site’s content was blocked in a move to voice its objection to the US Stop Online Piracy Act.

Sopa, which proposed new anti-privacy legislation, would have expanded the ability of US enforcers to punish ‘pirate’ websites. Opponents argued that Sopa would have infringed upon freedom of speech rights.

Before the 18 January blackout 80 congressmen supported Sopa, while 31 were opposed, according to investigate journalist site ProPublica. Just a day later, it said 65 were in favour but 101 had voiced their opposition.

The House Judiciary Committee postponed plans to draft the bill until there is “wider agreement on a solution”.

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