Polish Authorities Demand British Law Enforcement Interrogate Tor Exit Node Operator About Information He Doesn't Have

from the colossal-waste-of-time-and-effort dept

As numerous posts on Techdirt attest, the authorities really don't like Tor, even though the Onion routing system was developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory, not some terrorist hacker group. The latest jurisdiction to misunderstand how Tor works is Poland, as this report on Motherboard explains:

Polish authorities have requested British law enforcement to interrogate the node operator because of a 2014 forum post supposedly insulting the ex-mayor of a small Polish town; apparently an illegal act in Poland.
Specifically:
A letter from the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok, Poland, to the UK Home Office points to Article 212, paragraph 2 of the Polish Penal Code, which says, in sum, that characterising someone else in such a way that might "degrade them in public opinion or expose them to the loss of confidence necessary to occupy a given position […] is subject to a fine or the penalty of limitation of liberty."
The Tor exit node used by the person who allegedly wrote the problematic post is run by Thomas White, better known as TheCthulhu on Twitter, where his bio reads:
Technology and privacy activist. Hidden service dev. Turkey-certified terrorist. Radical giver of no shits.
It will therefore come as no surprise that White is unsympathetic to the request by the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok. Even better, he has posted part of his statement in reply to that request, which is well-worth reading. White points out that the Polish law in question seems to violate Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, further enshrined as Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. He says that he accepts the ex-mayor in question may have found a statement about him to be humiliating or offending, but adds:
I have many times felt offended where his political party have made derogatory remarks concerning the LGBT community for example, or where his complaint is an attempt to trample upon the rights of others. The difference is that I seem to have the mental capacity to take the opinions of others on board and reason my views with them to make my points.
White concludes pretty much as you might hope and expect:
I can only reaffirm my position that I have no intention of assisting with the request from the Polish authorities
Of course, the great thing about Tor is that White couldn't help the Polish authorities even he wanted to, since he was just operating the exit node, and knows nothing about the origin of the Tor traffic he facilitates. The sooner governments learn this basic fact, the sooner they can stop wasting time and resources trying to extract information from people that don't have it.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

Filed Under: law enforcement, poland, thecthulhu, thomas white, tor, tor exit node, uk


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2016 @ 10:51am

    The sooner governments learn this basic fact, the sooner they can stop wasting time and resources trying to extract information from people that don't have it.

    Alternatyivly, they know the information is not availabel, but they hope to hassle TOR operators into shutting down their nodes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2016 @ 11:01am

    Send the mayor to: https://www.lysator.liu.se/jokes/polish.html

    That should fix everything up.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 11:03am

    But it worked so well for Gollum, others with power induced brain damage are certain it will work for them. So what if its not possible... he made a demand so they yes men act upon it, fearing what might happen if they point out the world doesn't work that way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 11:24am

    Polish authorities have requested British law enforcement to interrogate the node operator because of a 2014 forum post supposedly insulting the ex-mayor of a small Polish town; apparently an illegal act in Poland.
    Presumably the City of London Police are all over this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 11:58am

    Radical giver of no shits.

    And he excels at it apparently. *thumbs up*

    Turkey-certified terrorist.

    I assume he is stopped by clueless customs officers all the time because of it. But it gave me an idea: why don't we all write on our facebooks accounts we are terrorists? I mean, why not play with the collective tiny brains of these people?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Pronounce (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 12:56pm

    I wish Aaron Swartz was still alive. But as you may know taking on the government requires a steep price, which not everyone is prepared to pay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Padpaw (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 4:46pm

      Re:

      amazing coincidence how most of those that have opposed the last few governments have ended dead by suicide or murder.

      Almost like someone has a list and is checking off names of those who have been naughty.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 1:09pm

    A letter from the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok, Poland, to the UK Home Office points to Article 212, paragraph 2 of the Polish Penal Code, which says, in sum, that characterising someone else in such a way that might "degrade them in public opinion or expose them to the loss of confidence necessary to occupy a given position […] is subject to a fine or the penalty of limitation of liberty."

    Given the law they're trying to use I have to wonder when the ones who filed the request will be charged under it. I mean someone may have said some 'mean' things about the ex-mayor, but they the ones characterizing him as so thin-skinned that simple words are enough to wound him to the point that he goes legal over the matter, something I'd consider much more damaging to his reputation than any amount of 'mean words' might amount to.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 11 Jul 2016 @ 4:43pm

    This is what I am reminded of

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibDRcBV4x3c

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jul 2016 @ 5:19pm

    I'm not going to argue the idiocy of sending this request to UK authorities or the ethics of article 212 here since pretty much everyone agrees it should be massively overhauled and moved from criminal to civil area of law.

    However, the translation of "pomawia" as "characterizes" is simply wrong — in reality it means "falsely accuses", refers to an accusation made in privacy (§ 1) or in public (§ 2, including on the Internet) and it can be invalidated via Article 213:
    § 1. There is no crime defined in Article 212 § 1, if the accusation stated in non-public manner [can be proven] true.
    § 2. Person stating a true accusation is not guilty of the crime defined in Article 212 § 1 or 2 if:
    1) the accusation refers to conduct of a person performing a public function or
    2) the accusation is stated in defence of a socially relevant issue.

    Rest of the article sets restrictions on what can be legally trialled for truth due to the privacy right of an individual but that doesn't apply to public figures like a mayor, unless the accusation is false, of course.

    The biggest problem with it is, I think, that it's a criminal law regarding libel that allows for up to imprisonment (which doesn't really happen, mind you) and demands the accused to prove his innocence, reversing the innocent until proven guilty paradigm which should be reflected in matters of criminality. This makes it a rather favoured tool of scumbags politicians aiming to create a chilling effect and stifle criticism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tank (profile), 12 Jul 2016 @ 7:31am

    Re: Draconian Europe...

    I know the Eastern Block has always been one tiny step from being Russia, but it seems like the last few years have really highlighted the draconian mentality of the leadership in various countries across the EU. What happens when there's no more Britain to bring even a little moderation to the table? I think the skinny mustached dbag we all know and hate will be smiling in his grave.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    MadManiacal1, 13 Jan 2019 @ 10:16am

    Ex Mayor?

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but if he's not mayor anymore, wouldn't that disqualify the claim in total? If the law pertains to maligning a public figure, but they aren't a public figure anymore, where's the infraction?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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