New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs website was brought down earlier today, just days before a planned Anonymous DDoS attack on the site in a protest instigated by the country’s decision to introduce an Internet filter.

While the attacks aren’t scheduled to begin until after the weekend, the site had already been taken down earlier today. It is now once again operational, and we expect that Anonymous will still proceed with a larger attack on Monday.

The New Zealand government still hasn’t determined what happened to the website, but suspects Anonymous struck early. As Anonymous has no leadership and is more of a collective than an organization, it’s impossible to control its membership, and it’s unclear whether a small group from within the organization decided to jump the gun or the another group decided to copycat the planned attack.

However, it’s unlikely that the larger Anonymous collective had much to do with the site’s downtime. Users in the group’s IRC channels, which they use to communicate and coordinate, expressed confusion on reading this ZDNet article accusing Anonymous of a pre-emptive attack.

“I haven’t heard anything about NZ … either wrong peeps or something?” said a member going by the name LegionOfMe. They added, “I do think that NZ needs to back off the filtering bullshit.”

Another member going by snooz said, “I imagine more and more stuff is going to get put under ‘anonymous did it,” referencing the increasing tendency to blame Anonymous for any and all DDoS attacks for which nobody has taken credit.

Anonymous posted a video in February opposing the New Zealand government, and announcing that the group would initiate a coordinated DDoS attack against the Department of Internal Affairs website at 5PM EST on March 28th.  From the video:

It is for this that we the people, must and will step forward to dismantle the Government’s control over the internet.

On March 28th at approximately 5PM Eastern Standard Time, a series of coordinated denial of service attacks will be carried out on the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs website.

In 2010, Anonymous used similar attacks against Australian Government websites in opposition to a similar Internet censorship proposal. After several years of ongoing opposition from the Australian public, the Labor government last year put the project on hiatus awaiting a review of the country’s classification scheme, in what some have called a retreat from an unpopular policy without declaring defeat.