Russia reverses decision to block Tor Project website


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A Russian appeals court has overturned a decision under which the website of privacy-focused organization The Tor Project was blocked, according to Roskomsvoboda, a digital rights nonprofit in the country. Then the site must be unblocked, Roskomsvoboda supports in a blog post published Thursday, which would be potentially remarkable in a country that has increasingly cracked down on independent and outside news amid its invasion of Ukraine.

This decision does not necessarily mean that it will be easier to use the anonymity network Tor itself from Russia. Russia has a history of blocking access to the network and the court ordered a new trial. But if the website eventually becomes more easily accessible in Russia, more people may be able to access information and resources on how to stay anonymous online.

“If this decision is overturned, there will be no formal reason to continue blocking and Tor will have to be removed from Roskomnadzor’s registry,” a Roskomsvoboda representative told Motherboard in an online chat, referring to the agency. censorship by the Russian government.

“The decision (primary requirement) is reversed in part with the direction of the case for a new trial”, the result published on the website of the Saratov Regional Court reads in Russian.

Do you know of any other cases of Internet censorship? We would love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, OTR chat on [email protected] or email an email to [email protected]

The Tor project website was blocked in a December 2017 decision by the Saratov court. Since then, Roskomsvoboda has raised issues with the decision.

The first was that in the 2017 case, the court did not convene the Tor project itself.

“It is an absolute basis to reverse the decision, since the decision to block the site affected the rights and obligations of its owner,” Ekaterina Abashina, Roskomsvoboda’s media lawyer, said in the blog post.

The second point was that Russian law does not contain a general ban on the dissemination of information related to anonymization technology, writes Roskomsvoboda.

Abashina said in the blog post that the court opened the case for a new trial, this time with The Tor Project as part of the proceedings.

An update to the blog post indicates that the retrial is scheduled for May 26.

“The decision to lift the block against our website
is amazing news for digital rights and freedom to use Tor in Russia.
This important achievement would not be possible without the pro bono support of Roskomsvoboda, but the fight is not over,” the Tor Project told Motherboard in a statement. “We need those who can to donate to Roskomsvoboda so they can continue their legal work, and we need others to run the Tor bridges so all Russian users can circumvent ongoing censorship against Tor.”

In March, Twitter has launched an onion service Tormeaning that Russian users should be able to use the Tor anonymity network to access the site.

Update: This article has been updated to include a statement from Roskomsvoboda and to replace an earlier statement from the Tor Project with a more recent one.

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