Twitter has introduced a Tor (opens in new tab) onion service version of the social media platform tailored for circumventing blockades and evading censorship.
The news broke on the site itself, where software engineer Alec Muffett, who contributed to the creation of Twitter for the Tor network, announced the service in a series of tweets (opens in new tab).
“This is possibly the most important and long-awaited tweet that I've ever composed,” Muffett starts.
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“On behalf of Twitter, I am delighted to announce their new TorProject onion service, at: https://twitter3e4tixl4xyajtrzo62zg5vztmjuricljdp2c5kshju4avyoid.onion (opens in new tab),” the tweet reads.
Why Twitter decided to break such important news via a software engineer’s account, rather than via its own official channels? According to Engadget (opens in new tab), announcing on the TwitterSafety account could result in a "load-spike" that would flood the service.
Even before, users could access Twitter via the Tor browser, but the new version comes with more layers of protection.
According to Muffett, the Tor version of the popular microblogging platform has been in the works since 2014, with Facebook releasing a similar implementation that year, as well. Two years later, in 2016, Facebook said at least a million users accessed both the standard site, or the onion service, through Tor, every month.
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Whether or not the timing of the release is purely coincidental is anyone’s guess, but it’s hard not to notice that Russia, in light of the recent attack on Ukraine, limited or blocked access (opens in new tab) to both Facebook and Twitter, less than a week ago.
According to the country’s information watchdog, Roskomnadzor, the ban was put in place because of multiple cases of discrimination against Russian media by Facebook since October 2020.
Earlier this month, Facebook and Instagram removed Russia Today (RT), and Sputnik, from their platforms in the European Union and the UK. Announcing the move, Meta’s head of global affairs, Nick Clegg, said the company did so following requests “from a number of Governments and the EU to take further steps in relation to Russian state-controlled media”.
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