Tor Project Fights Russian Censorship, Goes to Russian Court to Appeal Blockade
The Tor Project has filed an appeal challenging the blocking of the TorProject.org website and broader censorship in Russia.
U.S.-based Tor Project and Russian digital rights protection group RosKomSvoboda will appeal the recent decision to block its main website, Tor Project.org, as well as key nodes, in court in Russia.
The nonprofit Tor Project operates the Tor decentralized network, which runs on top of the Internet and allows users to bypass censorship, access websites anonymously, and access special Onion URLs (.onion) that can only be accessed through Tor.
The Tor network is an open source system for anonymous online communication. Also known as the Onion Router, the network is used to circumvent censorship and is widely accessed by civil rights activists, whistleblowers, lawyers, human rights defenders, and people under oppressive regimes.
The default bridge available in the Tor browser does not work in some parts of Russia, and this, combined with the blocking of the TorProject.org website, has led to a dramatic drop in anonymous traffic in the country.
Russia previously had 300,000 Tor users per day, or about 15 percent of all users on the anonymity network. However, since late November 2021, that number has dropped sharply to less than 200,000 per day.
Russian Court Blocks Tor Project Website and Tor Nodes
On December 6, 2021, the Tor Project was notified that "according to the official ruling of the Russian Saratov District Court in 2017, TorProject.org will be blocked in Russia in accordance with Article 15.1 of the Russian Information Law." Russia blocked their website as well as various public Tor nodes used to connect to decentralized networks in the Russian region.
The court's decision was based on the fact that Tor Project's anonymous browser allowed access to sites with "extremist material.
Tor disputes these claims, arguing that its privacy-protected browser is an important tool for journalists, activists, human rights defenders and marginalized people to protect themselves online.
Tor Project, in cooperation with Russian digital rights organization RosKomSvoboda, filed an appeal with the Saratov District Court challenging the blocking on Tor Project.org, arguing that the court's decision to block Tor Project's website and infrastructure was illegal
The appellants argued that the ban, which was imposed without allowing Tor Project to contest the case, violated their procedural rights and the adversarial nature of the proceedings, in addition to the Russian people's "constitutional right to freely provide, receive and disseminate information and protect privacy.
The first hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 7.
Isabela Bagueros, executive director of the Tor Project, commented: "With the help of the lawyers of RosKomSvoboda, Darbinyan Sarkis and Abashina Ekaterina, we are appealing the court's decision and we hope to reverse the situation and help set a precedent for digital rights in Russia. set a precedent for digital rights."
The Tor Project and Supporters Fight Back
As explained in a recent blog post by the Tor Project, to help fight censorship of the Tor network, volunteer bridge operators have added more than 1,000 new Tor bridges to the network since December 2021. These bridges are not currently blocked, allowing the Russian people to access the Tor network and fight government censorship.
In addition, Russian users who cannot access the main Torproject.org site can still do so by visiting tor.eff.org, a mirror site set up by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, bypassing Russian censorship of the site.
"Blocking the main site discourages people from downloading the Tor browser," Bagueros explained, "however, we believe that the larger reason for the decrease in Tor usage in Russia is due to the blocking of the Tor network itself."
From：On DarkNet – Dark Web News and Analysis
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