Updated: July 3, 2020 12:11:47 pm
A number of theatre practitioners in Delhi and Mumbai have had their Facebook pages hacked last weekend.
According to the Delhi Theatre Circuit (DTC) and Mumbai Theatre Circuit (MTC), a hacker was invited to be an admin of the two Facebook pages on Saturday reportedly by Danish Husain, a senior theatre and film actor who had started the groups 12 years ago to connect stage artistes.
However, Husain claimed to have neither invited nor add the hacker as the group admin and said he does not know him or her.
As soon as the hacker joined the groups, Husain was removed from both the pages without his knowledge. In the next few hours, the pages of DTC and MTC were disabled by Facebook.
Among those affected, apart from Husain, were Atul Kumar, Vivek Mansukhani, Yuki Elias, Quasar Thakore Padamsee, Purva Naresh and Jehan Maneckshaw,
Husain, who is in the US at present, said he had no suspicion even after he received a notification from Facebook about a new login from an unusual device and location. “Facebook was right in saying that my account was compromised. I operate Facebook from my Mac and iPhone and somebody managed to hack the account,” he said.
While the DTC page was back on Wednesday, a verified professional artists’ page operated by Husain and one Imran Rasheed are still not accessible. “I cannot understand what happened. Facebook asked me for my identity cards, which I had sent. What do I do now?” Rasheed said.
Arvind Gaur, who operated Asmita Theatre Group in Delhi, and is an admin as well as an active user of DTC, contacted Facebook’s support system after the page was suspended. “After the hacker gained access to the page, he or she must have posted something inappropriate that made Facebook suspend the DTC account. The timeline shows that the hacker changed the cover photo twice. After the page returned, I checked and came across an unusual name. I deleted the name of the alleged hacker from our list of admins,” Gaur said.
Mansukhani, another admin of DTC, received a bell notification from Facebook on Saturday which informed him about fake postings on the page. “I went to the DTC page and checked. It showed up something like a notice which said that in the times of Covid-19, there was a lot of fake news flying around and Facebook would like to protect us by making sure that we either don’t see or spread fake news. I logged out and when I tried to log in again, my Facebook account disappeared,” Mansukhani said.
“I really panicked because I use Facebook a lot to promote various things. I had been accessing it on my mobile. I switched to my laptop but a notice said that my account had been suspended. After two hours, I tried logging in and saw my account was back on my mobile and laptop,” he added.
Across the country, theatre practitioners use the social media platform to post information on workshops, theatre productions and social initiatives and share personal musings, political ideas and links to recommended articles and plays being streamed. There are more than 33,000 members on DTC and 20,000 on MTC.
“Covid has pushed all of us into this virtual cyberworld. Quite unwillingly, I have started working and using it as well. When the only available space in this virtual world is taken away, one is bound to get worried. Certainly, I wasn’t anxious after facing so many severe anxieties in the last 100 days of lockdown but I was wondering about the reason this happened and what are the gains one would have by hacking a group of creative theatrewallahs,” Kuljit Singh of Delhi-based Atelier Theatre, said.
Most admins said they had received no prior information from Facebook on their account suspension. Others, such as Gaur and Singh, were asked to change their user name and password.
“I could not understand know why Facebook was asking us to change our login details but we did it anyway. Now, I realised that we were hacked and Facebook decided to protect us,” Gaur said.
In Mumbai, Thakore Padamsee was watching Barcelona play —the games of the Spanish football league — when he received a notification from Facebook that his account had violated community standards. “I had no idea what had happened. I hadn’t said anything that was inflammable. I, honestly, thought it was a technical issue and when they asked for my ID card, I sent a copy of my driver’s licence. I found out that others too had got bumped off and nobody knew why,” he said.
Husain added that he had invited theatre artistes of repute to be admins of the two groups. “These groups are loosely run as a collective by this admin team. The only restriction is that the posts need to be approved by any of the admins before they go up on the page. It is the same for the members. We have been able to keep the group relatively free of trash and unrelated topics for 12 years,” he said.
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