[tor-project] The Tor Project Social Contract

Paul Syverson paul.syverson at nrl.navy.mil
Mon Aug 1 12:48:19 UTC 2016

On Mon, Aug 01, 2016 at 03:22:01AM -0400, Nick Mathewson wrote:
> 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. 

What an inspiring and perspicuous thing to start a month with!  
Thanks Nick. Du bist mein Sofa. And for those who can, picturing Nick
and imagining hearing this delivered in his voice makes it even better.


> 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
> programmers.
> -- 
> Nick
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