Twitter Launches Tor Service That Can Help Russians Get Around Censorship

Twitter launches tor service that can help russians get around censorship

Twitter launched a privacy-protected version of its site on Wednesday to help bypass censorship and surveillance after Russia restricted its access. The new version will allow people in Russia to circumvent the government’s blocks that interfere with information flow in the country.

Though Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor has not yet confirmed a ban on Twitter, it has confirmed a “partial” block of Facebook.

Facebook had blocked and removed Russian propaganda news outlets such as Russia Today and had started pulling down false information and marking Russian content with fact-checking labels. On the other hand, Twitter had begun labeling Russian state accounts and demoting misleading content.

The Details

Alec Muffett, a cybersecurity researcher and expert with the Tor network, was the main brain behind the project. The new Tor service is based on a model of the EOTK (Enterprise Onion Toolkit), a tool that the researcher created to help site owners and admins quickly add a .onion URL in their website’s domain. This is what has been modeled to conform to Twitter’s unique production requirements.  

“This is possibly the most important and long-awaited tweet that I’ve ever composed,” Muffett tweeted. “On behalf of Twitter, I am delighted to announce their new Tor Project onion service. I’m delighted to have assisted Twitter engineers in their adoption of Onion Services & Onion Networking from  Tor Project— providing greater privacy, integrity, trust, & “unlock ability” for people all around the world who use Twitter to communicate.”

Muffett has been working on the Tor version of Twitter since 2014. This is the same year he helped Facebook launch its Tor service.

Also known as the “onion router,” the Tor Network works by encrypting web traffic and then routes it via different servers worldwide, providing users freedom and anonymity from censorship.

Is This Related To The Block in Russia?

Twitter didn’t confirm or deny if the well-timed launch was connected to the apparent restriction in Moscow.

“Making our service more accessible is an ongoing priority for us,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement, pointing directly to Twitter’s list of supported browsers, which now has a link to the Tor onion service.

The address of the Tor version is twitter3e4tixl4xyajtrzo62zg5vztmjuricljdp2c5kshju4avyoid.onion.

Using The Service

To use the service, a user must first download the Tor browser. The browser’s main job is to anonymize your online traffic. It also helps people access other government-blocked websites (not just Twitter) by redirecting your web traffic.

What makes Twitter’s Tor different is that it is designed to work seamlessly over the Tor network, making it easy for users to access the site and provide more efficient user anonymity.

Also, to bypass the restriction, Russians have been trying to use different VPN services that have increased in popularity recently in the country. To help you get a good idea of what Tor Onion and VPNs are all about, the last two paragraphs in this article about Onion over VPN (or Tor over VPN) shed more light on both services as well as which one is ideal for your needs.

Josh Breaker

Josh is a technology writer with a focus on all things cybersecurity. The topics he writes about include malware, vulnerabilities, exploits, and security defenses, as well as research and innovation in information security. I have also written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix.

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