Russia strengthens internet control by blocking privacy service Tor

The logo of the Russian state communications regulator Roskomnadzor is reflected on a laptop screen in this photo illustration taken on February 12, 2019. REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov

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MOSCOW, Dec. 8 (Reuters) – Russia on Wednesday tightened state surveillance of internet activity by blocking the global privacy service Tor website and part of its wider network, with the communications regulator accusing it of allow access to illegal content.

Russia has put increasing pressure on foreign tech companies this year over the content shared on their platforms and has also targeted virtual private networks (VPNs) and other online tools in a campaign that critics say is choking. Internet freedom. Read more

The regulator, Roskomnadzor, said the website had been banned based on a court ruling.

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“The motives for this were the placement of information on this website which enables the operation of tools for accessing illegal content,” Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

“Today, access to the resource has been restricted.”

Tor, which was founded by American computer scientists, did not immediately comment.

Reuters has verified that the Tor website is inaccessible. Access to the Tor browser and other elements of the Tor infrastructure was limited.

GlobalCheck, a group that monitors website accessibility in Russia, has confirmed that the block has started.

In a blog post posted on Tuesday, Tor said some ISPs started blocking access since December 1 and urged its users to bypass the block by visiting its mirror site, which is still functioning.

“Blocking Tor would be next to impossible – a large community will find the means to fund the organization to circumvent the blockade in Russia,” said Mikhail Klimarev, head of the Internet Defense Society, a nonprofit researching group. to fight online. censorship in Russia.

The Tor anonymity network is used to mask the IP addresses of computers in order to conceal the identity of an Internet user. Tor says it has over 300,000 users in Russia, or 14% of all daily users, just behind the United States.

Anton Gorelkin, a member of the State Duma’s Committee on Information and Communications, this week described Tor as a cover for illegal activity and “absolute evil”.

Tor says its mission is to advance human rights and freedoms by creating and deploying free and open source technologies for anonymity and privacy.

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Reporting by Alexander Marrow, Gleb Stolyarov and Anton Zverev; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and David Evans

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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