I’ve discussed the importance of Tor in fighting erroneous legislation but haven’t had any excellent demonstrations of Tor’s effectiveness in fighting the state’s continuous Internet power grabs. Russia has given me a perfect demonstration of the importance Tor holds:
A Russian law passed in November 2012 aimed at blacklisting sites promoting drug use has apparently just blocked the popular drug education website Erowid.org for certain users in the country according to a post on Reddit. A Russian government site listing prohibited sites shows that Erowid was added to the register earlier this month and was blocked on February 23. Russian user GreatfulListener says it is only “a matter of time” before the block affects more Russian internet service providers.
Erowid remains available in Russia via the Tor network. In fact, the Russian Tor community has undergone significant growth over the last year. RAMP, the Russian Anonymous MarketPlace, is now providing a leading Russian alternative to the English-speaking Silk Road.
Russia has begun blocking websites related to drug use. If history teaches us anything it’s that Russia will likely increase its censorship powers in the coming years. Fortunately the blocked site, Erowid, can still be accessed by Russians through Tor. Although I primarily discuss hidden services Tor is also very important in bypassing censorship of websites outside of the Tor network. Many countries block access to websites deemed undesirable but Tor works by sending traffic through exit nodes that are located in different countries, countries where the site being access may not be blocked.
The remainder of the article discusses the Russian Anonymous Marketplace (RAMP), a hidden service where Russians can perform anonymous transactions with Bitcoins. It’s akin to Silk Road, which I’ve discussed before. RAMP, like Silk Road, demonstrate that markets cannot be suppressed and that people will always find ways around state prohibitions. Today Tor and Bitcoins are integral tools for individuals wanting to avoid state prohibitions and censorship, which is why I believe it’s important to ensure these technologies become more widespread.