[tor-talk] Let's not keep rehashing the past, it's dead already... (Was: Fishy MegaCorpsArchy)

Alec Muffett alec.muffett at gmail.com
Sun Sep 23 13:36:33 UTC 2018

I've seen lots of postings from Grarpamp and I feel sure that I'm never
going to change any opinions that Grarpamp holds; but what I do want to
raise with everyone is "the possibility of change":

To a good approximation, literally *zero* percent of the organisations
which will benefit from "Opportunistic Onions" have ever used Onion
Services until now

However literally 100% of the websites who can benefit from "Opportunistic
Onions" are Cloudflare customers by choice, who choose to trust Cloudflare
with their traffic, and I respect the choices of the website owners to
select different ways of scaling their services and of keeping their
systems safe from being DDoS'ed.

The people who *use* those websites can and should make their feelings
known to the website owners; but the opinions they feed back should be
balanced and considered and up-to-date and fair.

Yes, there is much to criticise of Cloudflare's past approach towards Tor
(including tweets by the CEO) but as I have also said so many times before:
it's amazing what a little engagement and mutual respect will achieve.

To go back through my own history at Facebook Engineering, the turning
point was this Reddit post from June 2013:


...where one of Facebook's IP reputation systems burped after eating some
new config software, and blocked a large number of Tor exit nodes.

The civil society & reddit communities started commenting at speed, flaming
Facebook for "censorship"; and I had to argue against my own management,
some of whom suggested "why not just block Tor totally?" - because it
apparently caused nothing but vitriol and bad headlines.

I said "Give me a chance" and pinged Runa Sandvik (who was then at Tor)
asking her on behalf of Tor to explain the situation to the world:


quote> A number of users have noticed that Facebook is blocking connections
from the Tor network. Facebook is not blocking Tor deliberately. However, 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.

...and the anger faded. People were nonplussed: Facebook had merely goofed.
Facebook was working with Tor to "fix things". As I think one commenter put
it: "What do I do with this pitchfork, now?"

The important thing is what happened next:

This single event - proving that it was possible to get constructive
assistance from Tor - was enough to provide me traction for the concept of
building a Facebook onion site; I started building it 1 year later (needed
to learn some stuff, first) and launched it 3 months after that.

It's no coincidence that Runa subsequently helped with testing & launching
facebookcorewwwi, nor that three years later the New York Times launched
its own onion site.

I am sure that there are lots of people here who hate Facebook too - and
that's okay; my point is that without constructive engagement we would
probably not be where we are today, with Onion SSL Certificates, with an
official ".onion" top-level domain, with a increasing number of
"respectable" onion websites which are putting the lie to the "Dark Web"

Tor, and Onion Networking, is just the "More Secure Web"; and you grow it
by giving people and companies the opportunities and space to engage with
it, so that they can offer value to others.

tl;dr - Tor will grow by engagement and reconciliation, not by rehashing
old debates and historical enmities.

    - alec


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