Well forgotten old: Roskomnadzor blocked the Tor project site four years after the court’s decision

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On December 7, the developers of the popular anonymous browser Tor learned about the blocking of one of the subdomains of the project’s website. But there are several interesting circumstances in this blockage.

As noted in a statement by the developers made yesterday evening, since December 1, users of some Internet providers in Russia have been complaining about problems with access to the Tor network. The number of rejected attempts by Russian users’ browsers to find a Tor node to connect has also increased significantly. Obviously, ISPs have begun to systematically block the Tor gateways they know.

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In the register of prohibited resources, the decision of the Saratov District Court of 12/18/2017 is indicated as the reason for blocking. Itself
judgment, in its public form, also raises questions. The prosecutor of the Dubki village in the Saratov district of the Saratov region requested the blocking of an unknown site (his name is hidden in the published decision) in connection with the placement of an “anonymizing browser on it, for subsequent visits to sites containing materials included in the Federal List of Extremist Materials.” The decision was to be sent to Roskomnadzor immediately, however, the department banned access to the site only after almost four years.

But in the very process of blocking there was an interesting detail. In the registry on the day of blocking on December 7, and even this morning, only the resource www.torproject.org was specified. However, the main site, without the long-obsolete www prefix (torproject.org), was available almost all day and was not contained in the registry. But by the evening, the main domain also got into the registry and was blocked.

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To summarize, the circumstances of this strange blocking raise at least two questions:

  1. Why was the court decision made for execution only four years later?
  2. On what basis are providers now actively blocking Tor gateways that are not directly related to the project’s website and were not mentioned in any way in the court’s decision?

The Tor Project developers recalled that users from Russia make up about 15% of the entire audience of the service. This is more than 300,000 people every day. To solve the problem, they urge users to launch their own bridges to the Tor network, so that there are more “entry points” to the anonymous network.

Blocks of Internet resources in Russia related to anonymization technologies and cryptocurrencies take place quite often and almost always – by the forces of district courts from remote regions. Nevertheless, their decisions are binding on the entire territory of the Russian Federation. For example, in early October, the sites of 17 cryptocurrency exchangers were banned by the decision of the district court in Bashkiria. And last year, a court in the Arkhangelsk region blocked the Bits.media forum and several exchangers. It should be noted that if the owners of blocked resources apply to higher courts, unreasonable decisions on blocking in most cases can be canceled.

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