Twitter Is Launching Tor Service, Aims To Make Tweeting More Personal And Secure For Users
Twitter is developing a Tor onion service that will optimize the platform for the privacy and censorship-protecting network. Tor has also been added to Twitter's list of supported browsers, according to software programmer Alec Muffett, who called it "perhaps the most meaningful and long-awaited tweet I've ever composed."
Tor encrypts web traffic and routes it across a network of servers, potentially masking users' personal information. It's a common method for getting access to restricted websites, and it's become even more important since Russia's February invasion of Ukraine, which sparked a Russian crackdown on Twitter, Facebook, and other alternative media outlets.
In December 2021, some broadband providers began censoring Tor, but the Tor Project informed Vice today that the level of censorship has fluctuated and that Russian users can still connect via a Tor bridge.
Twitter's onion service, on the other hand, has been in development for much longer and has benefits beyond simply gaining access to a restricted network. It forces people to use Tor's network because it doesn't work with conventional browsers and shields them from some of the security risks that come with standard web addresses.
Having a distinct access method also makes it easier for companies like Facebook and Twitter to monitor illegal activities on Tor without affecting genuine users' experience. Automated scraping or site attacks, for example. Even if the majority of Twitter users don't use Tor to access the service, it's a step forward for those who do and a step toward greater adoption.
While Tor can already be used to access Twitter's conventional website, the newly released version enhances the already secure surfing experience and is customized to the network.
"It's a promise from the platform to treat people who use Tor fairly," Muffett said in a Twitter direct message to The Verge. "Creating an onion address is a practical move that proves that the platform is expressly catering to Tor users' demands," he added.
Onion services are referred to as "hidden services" or "dark web" services, but the latter term usually refers to blatantly illegal sites like the Silk Road drug market. Tor-specific versions of the DuckDuckGo search engine, as well as news providers such as The New York Times, the BBC, and ProPublica, are all available. SecureDrop, for example, uses Tor to receive secure files and content.
Muffett, who works with corporations to create onion sites, has been thinking about a Tor-friendly Twitter since 2014. That's when Facebook launched its hidden service, purportedly to address serious operational difficulties for Tor users who were regularly mistaken for botnets.
According to Facebook, a million individuals use Tor every month to access the main site or onion service.