Tor censorship attempts in Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan

Roger Dingledine

Playlists: '37c3' videos starting here / audio

In December 2021, months before the world watched Russia invade Ukraine, Russia rolled out comprehensive censorship of the Tor network and related Tor protocols. Then in October 2022, the latest wave of protests in Iran saw a huge spike in Tor usage followed by a swift crackdown of the most successful techniques. Meanwhile in 2023, Turkmenistan has blocked popular CDNs like Cloudflare and Akamai, most hosting providers like Hetzner and OVH, and much more.

On the depressing side, the global censorship trend continues to gain momentum, with some European countries alarmingly eager to get in on it. But resignation is boring: here we are, a tiny community of activists and relay/bridge operators around the world continuing to provide safe and private internet reachability for hundreds of thousands of people who are trying to be human beings under authoritarian regimes.

We will walk through \*how\* each of these countries deployed their Tor blocks, and what changes we made to let citizens continue to reach the Tor network. Looking at each case study through a Tor lens will let us compare/contrast the censorship attempts from each country, discuss future ideas for how to make sure the bytes can keep flowing, and talk through the political impacts.


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