On 19/06/2017 13:35, Tim Starling wrote:
> The only other argument I saw was that by doing this, we are
> supporting Tor, and Tor is evil. But the hidden service only handles
> traffic which is directed to the service. It does not support the
> network in general. Meanwhile, since 2014 we are operating a relay
> which routinely forwards traffic for script kiddies, terrorists and
> child pornographers, and nobody complains about that?
On 19/06/2017 14:39, Faidon Liambotis wrote:
> The flip side of this is to argue that the Tor network is predominantly
> used for illegimate, ethically bad uses, like the ones you mentioned. In
> that case, I don't see why we would want to spend any of our resources
> on it whatsoever and go anywhere near it. I obviously don't believe
> that, but that would be a consistent PoV that I'd happy to argue against
> and eventually oblige to, if that was the consensus we came to.

This is an interesting discussion and as Tor relay operator I have asked
myself questions along this lines more than once. Here's some of my
opinions on the matter.

There is a "mechanistic" view for which Tor is just a tool, as computers
themselves, which can be used for good and bad. In other words, Tor is
just a technological stack that provides end-to-end encryption for
computers[1]. In this view, Tor is not much different from your modem
and a node operator is not much different from your ISP or a provider of
other internet services. Having been in the position of arguing with a
VPS provider about running a Tor node on their network I have asked them
why in their contract they can decline any responsibility with respect
of the service they use and I can't do the same with respect to the user
of the Tor network.
In short, since Tor is a tool it can be used for good or bad and every
user is responsible for her own use of the network.

On the other hand, I think that some people (myself included) decide to
contribute to Tor because they see some inherent value in it and not
just because it is a fun tool, freely available to use. To be fair, the
Tor legal FAQs say this explicitly[2a]:
Should I use Tor or encourage the use of Tor for illegal purposes?

No. Tor has been developed to be a tool for free expression, privacy,
and human rights. It is not a tool designed or intended to be used to
break the law, either by Tor users or Tor relay operators.

As Faidon points out the flip side of this argument is that you need
also to consider the bad uses of the network.

You could use an utilitarian approach and try to weigh the goods against
the bad. This is in general very difficult and probably varies very much
from person to person.

In addition to that there is the fact that it is difficult to obtain
data about the usage of Tor, here some sources:
* a blog post from the Tor project "Some statistics about onions"[2b],
which reports that (as of early 2015) "hidden service traffic is about
3.4% of total Tor traffic."
* This talk from 31C3 (the Chaos Communication Congress of 2014) titled
"Tor: Hidden Services and Deanonymisation"[2c] by Dr Gareth Owen of
University of Portsmouth that conducted a survey of hidden services.
From this study it results that the largest proportion of Tor hidden
service traffic is by far child pornography. It may depend on the fact
that there are association and public agencies that monitor this sites
* This paper:  "Content and popularity analysis of Tor hidden
services."[2d] by Biryukov et al. A relevant quote: «We discovered a
huge number of hidden services that are part of the “Skynet” botnet
[...]. The number of hidden services with illegal content or devoted to
illegal activities and the number of other hidden services (devoted to
human rights, freedom of speech, anonymity, security, etc.) is almost
the same;»

Instead, you can have a more proactive vision of your actions (or your
community's actions) and think that you can try to get things better for
the measure that you are able to do it. This is also coherent with what
Faidon says that we contribute to the greater ecosystem of software to
be "good Internet and Linux citizens".

Personally, the latter is the vision I relate the most and the reason
for which I started contributing to the Tor network as a node operator.


[2a]: https://www.torproject.org/eff/tor-legal-faq.html.en
[2b]: https://blog.torproject.org/blog/some-statistics-about-onions
[2d]: Biryukov, Alex, et al. "Content and popularity analysis of Tor
hidden services." Distributed Computing Systems Workshops (ICDCSW), 2014
IEEE 34th International Conference on. IEEE, 2014.

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