[tor-project] The Tor Project Social Contract

Nick Mathewson nickm at freehaven.net
Mon Aug 1 07:22:01 UTC 2016

On Sun, Jul 31, 2016 at 7:30 PM, Matthew Finkel
<matthew.finkel at gmail.com> wrote:
> Obscuring an idea or
> purpose does help in some instances (this is how censorship circumvention
> works, after all), however, by not labeling Tor as a tool that promotes human
> rights the Tor community is lying about what Tor does and why many of us
> volunteer our time, money, and energy in support of it.

+1, and I'd like to speak to this point a bit.  The social contract
document, as I understand it, is an expression of who we want to be as
a community, and what we aspire to do.

The social contract document is *not*, as I understand it, a
specification for our software; a description of who may run it; a
synopsis of what it's good for; or a list of what goals and beliefs
users and operators are all expected to share.

It would be a category error to read Rogaway's "The Moral Character of
Cryptographic Work", and say "oh, that's what OCB does!"  Similarly it
would be foolish to read RMS's views, and conclude that emacs can't be
used to write a software patent application -- or to read ESR's views
on contemporary politics, and conclude that fetchmail is better for
reading pro-gun email than reading anti-gun email.

And it's also a category error to treat the goals and ideals in this
Tor-creating community's social contract as if they spread by a kind
of magic contagion to everybody in the world who likes, uses,
promotes, provides, downloads, uploads, modifies, inspects, discusses,
or operates the software we make.

Sure, the Grand Inquisitors of the world will pretend to embrace this
category error, and use our social contract as justification for
declaring innocent people their enemies.  But that's what grand
inquisitors do!  If it were not our social contract, they would find
an excuse to persecute their targets based on our mission statement, a
political cartoon, the cypherpunk manifesto, one of the Snowden leaks,
a slashdot post, or some political statement some Tor developer made
once [*].

We can't protect our users by pretending that we have no views or
opinions that tyrants might disagree with.  Would that really fool
anyone?  All we can do IMO is to be honest, to continue to broaden our
userbase to, and do our best to encourage the understanding of who we
are, who our users are, and the diversity of needs and values within
our userbase.

[*] Never mind the fact that it would be logically impossible for a
single person to agree with the political views of all Tor


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