Tor Project battles Russian censorship through the courts

An appeal has been filed to challenge a block imposed by Russian authorities.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

The Tor Project has filed an appeal against a Russian court's decision to block the Tor website in the country. 

The Tor network is an open source system for anonymizing 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 those under oppressive regimes.   

On Monday, the network developers said an appeal has been filed regarding a decision by the Saratov District Court to impose a block on the torproject.org website in Russia. 

The appeal has been filed between the Tor Project and RosKomSvoboda, a Russian digital rights protection outfit. 

On December 6, 2021, the Tor Project was told that its website would be blocked in accordance with Article 15.1 of the Law on Information. Public proxy servers and some bridges were also blocked in the country, and Tor developers have noticed blocks across Russia in the past month. 

According to Tor, the decision by the court was not based on any particular content. Instead, Russian authorities decided the website needed to be blocked as it permits "the download [of] an anonymizer browser program for subsequent visits to sites that host materials included in the Federal List of extremist Materials."

RosKomSvoboda lawyers are representing the Tor Project. According to the civil rights group, the ban "violates the constitutional right to freely provide, receive and disseminate information and protect privacy." 

In addition, the decision may also be considered problematic as "the case was considered without the participation of Tor representatives, which violated their procedural rights and the competitiveness of the process."

Tor says that Russian users account for the second-largest user base by country, with over 300,000 daily users. 

A mirror version of the Tor website has been launched by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). 

"With the help of Roskomsvoboda lawyers Sarkis Darbinyan and Ekaterina Abashina, we will appeal the court decision and hope to correct this situation and help create a precedent for the protection of digital rights in Russia," commented Isabela Bageros, executive director of The Tor Project.

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