from the don't-give-them-ideas dept
As more and more countries start introducing Web blocks, some people console themselves with the "at least there's always Tor" argument. Politicians may be slow, but they are not all completely stupid, and they are beginning to get the message that Tor and other anonymous services potentially render their Web blocks moot. It's then not a huge leap for them to move on to the next stage -- banning or blocking Tor -- as Russia now seems to be contemplating, according to this article on Russia Today:
The head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has personally ordered preparations for laws that would block the Tor anonymity network from the entire Russian sector of the Internet, a Russian newspaper reported.
In fact, according to the Izvestia story (original in Russian), along with Tor, all anonymizing proxy services would be banned too.
No prizes for guessing what's behind the latest move:
FSB director Aleksandr Bortnikov announced the initiative at a recent session of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, saying that his agency would develop the legislative drafts together with other Russian law enforcement and security bodies, the widely circulated daily Izvestia reported.
The news was disclosed after the Russian civil movement 'Head Hunters' wrote a letter to the FSB with a request to block Tor, as it is one of the favorite software tools for distributors and users of child pornography. The FSB replied that the request was directed to the wrong body, as crimes against public health and morals fall under the Interior Ministry's jurisdiction.
However, the FSB graciously decided to get involved anyway:
The FSB official said that the agency initiated the move as internet anonymizers were used by weapon traffickers, drug dealers and credit card fraudsters, giving the FSB an obvious interest in limiting the use of such software.
In other words, banning Tor and anonymizers is a real crowd-pleaser, since politicians can point to lots of bad people that use them. Just like they use the Internet, or postal service: and just as there are lots of good uses of the postal service and the Internet, so Tor and anonymizers are also vital for a wide range of non-evil people, notably activists and political dissidents, both of whom are already under pressure in Russia. But what is a bug for some is a feature for others: blocking Tor -- "for the children" -- would also have the knock-on effect of making it even harder for dissidents and political groups to access information and organize in secret.
Assuming that the proposed law is passed, as seems likely, the worry has to be that other countries will take note and start to think about following suit, probably playing the same populist card of fighting child pornography that Russia's 'Head Hunters' are now employing.