[tor-project] Messages for Twitter about Tor blocking?

David Fifield david at bamsoftware.com
Wed Mar 23 19:30:58 UTC 2016

On Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 02:58:28PM -0700, David Fifield wrote:
> I was invited to go to Twitter and talk about Sheharbano's, Sadia's,
> Mobin's, Srikanth's, Vern's, Steven's, Damon's, and my research about
> web sites blocking Tor users:
> https://www.benthamsgaze.org/2016/02/23/do-you-see-what-i-see/
> I'm not a Twitter user, beyond sometimes reading the web interface, so I
> haven't experienced blocking myself. But I've heard of Tor users being
> blocked by Twitter. Is there anything you'd like me to say to or ask of
> them? I know about the #dontblocktor hashtag (which is more often
> directed at CloudFlare than Twitter); I know that Leif was off Twitter
> for a while; I know about Marie's survey of users at
> https://pad.systemli.org/p/twitterdontblocktor. Anything else?

Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. Sadia and I visited Twitter
yesterday and we brought up the issues you mentioned. Here is the
summary email we sent them afterward.


This is the mailing list thread where we asked what messages Tor people
had for Twitter:

Here is a survey of some Twitter users, asking if they've ever
encountered difficulties as a result of using Tor:

Our paper and the presentation slides:
Our code and data will eventually be linked from here:
But as I understand it, there's some snag with the university providing
storage, so in the meantime you can just ask us for anything specific.

== Measuring Tor users ==

You can examine your past logs to see what fraction of sessions used
Tor. The data source you want to use for this is:
It contains records of this form:
	ExitNode 63BA28370F543D175173E414D5450590D73E22DC
	Published 2010-12-28 07:35:55
	LastStatus 2010-12-28 08:10:11
	ExitAddress 2010-12-28 07:10:30
	ExitAddress 2010-12-28 10:35:30
The "ExitAddress" lines are determined by actually building circuits
through the exit; i.e., they won't be fooled by exits that exit traffic
on a different IP address than they accept Tor connections on.

To be especially rigorous, you would want to also consider each exit
node's exit policy, to check whether it allows exiting to Twitter on
ports you care about. Those exit nodes that do not, should not be
considered "exit nodes" from Twitter's point of view. For that, you
probably want network status documents, and join on the fingerprint
field. But I would guess that effect is very small: it would only matter
if someone had an exit that did not allow access to Twitter, but they
themselves access Twitter (not through Tor) on the same IP address.

This is the same process that powers the https://check.torproject.org/
online test that checks if you are using Tor, and the
https://exonerator.torproject.org/ service that checks if an IP address
was an exit in the past. For real-time checks, you'll want to have a
process that continually refreshes the exit list from
(they are published hourly). There is documentation and source code for
running the Check and Exonerator services:
Here is sample Python code that parses various Collector documents and
outputs a list of IP addresses:
The output of the above code is available here (same format as the
tordnsel documents):

For an easy interface to the above data sources (current data only, not
historical), see Onionoo, a web service that serves JSON descriptions of
the current network.
This query, for example, has "exit_addresses" and "exit_policy" fields.
This is probably the easiest data source to use when prototyping.

== Running an onion service ==

This is a mailing list for the operators of onion services. Alec
Muffett, who helps run Facebook's onion service, is on it.
Here's a blog post on the Facebook service from Tor's point of view. It
touches on TLS certs for onion services:

== Censorship events ==

The https://metrics.torproject.org/ portal makes it easy to get graphs
of the number of Tor users. The two that are probably most interesting
to you are:
The "relay" graph is users connecting directly to Tor in the usual way.
The "bridge" graph is mostly users who have a censored Internet, who
have to use Tor pluggable transports to circumvent censorship. This is
what we used to make the graphs of Tor users in Turkey during the
Twitter block of 2014:
The graphs depict the *average number of concurrent users* during the
day, with numerous caveats. For more details, see:

== Tor Messenger ==

We didn't talk about this yesterday, but you should know that the most
recent release of Tor Messenger, an instant messaging client, support
sending encrypted OTR messages over Twitter DMs. The developers hope
that the ciphertext messages won't get blocked as spam.

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