About 80 masked people, calling themselves allies of the global hacker group Anonymous, picked up litter in Tokyo Saturday in a novel protest against Japan's tougher laws against illegal downloads.
In light rain, they took part in an "anonymous cleaning service" for one hour in a park and on pavements in the shopping and entertainment hub of Shibuya, a change from the group's trademark website attacks.
They were dressed in black and wore masks of Guy Fawkes, the central figure in England's 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament, which have become a symbol of protests by the loosely linked alliance around the world.
Last month, Japan's parliament enacted new copyright laws that could mean jail for anyone illegally downloading copyrighted music and movies.
On June 26, websites of the Japanese finance ministry, the Supreme Court and other public offices were defaced or brought down after an Anonymous online statement denounced the new laws. (See: Anonymous hacks Japanese websites over new copyright law)
The statement claimed Japan's recording industry and other content providers were now pushing Internet service providers to implement surveillance technology that will spy on every single Internet user in Japan.
The group, which assembled for the clean-up service in Tokyo, attributed the cyber attacks to other Anonymous elements around the world.
"We prefer constructive and productive solutions," the group said in a statement. "We want to make our fellow citizens aware of the problem with a productive message."
"In IRC (Internet relay chat), somebody proposed cleaning as a means of protest as we didn't want to follow the style of mass anti-nuclear rallies which are getting too much," said a spokesman for the assembly.
"I guess this is the first time that a Japanese-led Anonymous group stages an outside operation," said the man who said he works as an engineer in the computer industry.
"The cleaning service has amused overseas Anonymous allies as something unique to the Japanese," said another spokesman. "We want to continue stating our case on the net.