Russian court lifts block on Tor Project - for now

A hand holding an unlocked padlock besides a Tor Browser logo
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A Russian appeal court has lifted the country's block on the Tor website - the anonymous browser developed by nonprofit organization the Tor Project (opens in new tab) - digital rights advocate Roskomsvoboda has announced.

The reversal came following a decision from the appellate court last week, citing process violations during the initial proceedings four-and-a-half years ago that ultimately resulted in the blocking of the Tor browser website in December.

A new trial date has been set to commence on Thursday, May 26 with the Tor Project now being involved, having not been summoned in the initial case.

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Process violations proved

The blocking decision against the anonymous browser was ruled by Saratov district court, a regional court, in December 2017.

But Roskomsvoboda's lawyers managed to prove in the appellate court that procedural violations occurred during the first reading. In particular, they had two core arguments within the ruling.

The first was that, in 2017, the court did not summon the Tor Project itself. "That is an absolute basis for setting the decision aside, since the decision to block the site affected the rights and obligations of its owner,” explained Roskomsvoboda's attorney Ekaterina Abashina in a blog post (opens in new tab).

The second argument is that Russia laws do not technically ban the spreading of information related to anonymizing technologies, like Tor, VPNs or proxies

Even though it's not certain that Russians will be able to enjoy the anonymity of the Tor network for long, a step for greater internet freedom seems to have been made forward. 

Chiara Castro
Staff Writer

Chiara is a multimedia journalist, with a special eye for latest trends and issues in cybersecurity. She is a Staff Writer at Future with a focus on VPNs. She mainly writes news and features about data privacy, online censorship and digital rights for TechRadar, Tom's Guide and T3. With a passion for digital storytelling in all its forms, she also loves photography, video making and podcasting. Originally from Milan in Italy, she has been based in Bristol, UK, since 2018.