Update: Facebook resolves Tor issues

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UPDATE: Tor has posted that Facebook is not blocking Tor. "A high volume of malicious activity across Tor exit nodes triggered Facebook's site integrity systems which are designed to protect people who use the service. Tor and Facebook are working together to find a resolution."

From Facebook at 9:30 EEST: "Facebook's site integrity systems detected automated malicious activity coming from a significant number of Tor exit nodes. In order to protect people while we investigated the problem, access via these nodes was temporarily suspended. This issue has now been resolved and Tor access routes to Facebook restored." 

Of course, as Jessica Roy at BetaBeat points out, the sheer amount of internet buzz and speculation around this topic yesterday points to widespread distrust of Facebook, for better or worse.

In the wake of revelations that the U.S.'s National Security Agency has been conducting large-scale surveillance on traffic from major U.S. tech companies, we've noticed that Facebook may have blocked Tor, a software that enables anonymous browsing on the web. 

At time of print, using Tor to access Facebook resulted in the following addendum to the Facebook URL: "show_form=blocked_ip&bad_ips[client_ip_trusted]...&bad_ips[client_ip_connecting]...&bad_ips[client_ip_prelb]" (ellipses are substituted for IP addresses).

Social technology platform @Meedan and others reported the same problem.

Several commentors began reporting the issue on a few Tor forums on June 16th. Loading any Facebook URLs from the same computer, here in the Middle East, while using various IP addresses, worked fine on Chrome; only the Tor browser was blocked by Facebook.

Some have reported that it may be an encryption configuration problem, in other words, a bug rather than an intentional block.


If it is, in fact, a block, it would be dark day for internet freedom, especially in the Arab world, where Tor has played an ongoing instrumental role in helping activists protect their identities while organizing protests.

In 2011, Tor won the Free Software Foundation's Award for Projects of Social Benefit. "Using free software," the FSF wrote at the time, "Tor has enabled roughly 36 million people around the world to experience freedom of access and expression on the Internet while keeping them in control of their privacy and anonymity. Its network has proved pivotal in dissident movements in both Iran and more recently Egypt." 

The role that Tor and Facebook played in facilitating the dissemination of information under restrictive regimes cannot be underestimated. If this is an intentional block, Facebook is sounding the death knell for an era in which Zuckerburg's brainchild was lauded as a weapon of protest.

Perhaps it is just a glitch, perhaps not. The mission articulated in Zuckerburg's IPO filing letter to Facebook investors comes back to haunt us:

"We believe building tools to help people share can bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.

By giving people the power to share, we are starting to see people make their voices heard on a different scale from what has historically been possible. These voices will increase in number and volume. They cannot be ignored. Over time, we expect governments will become more responsive to issues and concerns raised directly by all their people rather than through intermediaries controlled by a select few.

Through this process, we believe that leaders will emerge across all countries who are pro-internet and fight for the rights of their people, including the right to share what they want and the right to access all information that people want to share with them."

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