Russian appeals court overturns decision to block Tor

An appeals court in Russia has overturned a regional court ruling that had allowed the Tor Project to be banned in the country. Due to violations in the original proceedings, the case was returned to the Court of First Instance for further consideration.

Roskomsvoboda helps unblock the Tor Project in Russia

Roskomsvoboda reported this week that procedural violations, primarily the failure to summon the owner, led to the reversal of the regional court’s decision to ban torproject.org. Lawyers from a non-governmental organization working to protect the rights of Internet users in Russia played a role in the case, which was referred to the Saratov Region Court.

The Tor Project website was blocked in December last year based on the decision of the Saratov District Court of December 18, 2017. The hearing in the Court of Appeal, which was held online, was followed by Ekaterina Abachina from the legal team of Roskomsvoboda. She said that since the district court’s decision was overturned, the blocking of torproject.org should be unblocked.

Abachina explained that the defense had two main arguments to challenge the initial decision. First of all, the absence of the platform representative at the hearings affected the rights and obligations of the owner. Secondly, Russian law does not currently prohibit the dissemination of information regarding VPN technologies and anonymizers.

The attorney general did not provide a written response to the lawyers’ complaint, but only made a verbal objection. Roskomnadzor, the Russian media watchdog that blocked the site, provided a written response saying the court had unlimited powers to identify any information as prohibited, Abachina explained. Legal expert told Forklog that Russian authorities wanted to restrict access to the site due to posted instructions on how to download the privacy-focused Tor browser.

Ekaterina Abashina expects the new proceedings to begin within a month and hopes that the Court of First Instance will consider Roskomsvoboda’s second point, that the dissemination of information about technologies such as Tor is not prohibited in the Russian Federation, and will also try to summon a related site. Owner as required by law.

Sites that publish useful information and provide services to the crypto community have been targeted by Russian authorities over the past few years. Last June, a court in Russia’s Perm region decided to ban a number of platforms that describe how to exchange cryptocurrency for fiat money. In December, Roskomnadzor moved to restrict access to six VPN providers to help Russians access “blocked” information. Some operators have successfully challenged these actions in Russian courts.

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What do you think of the issue of blocking the Tor Project site in Russia? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Lubomir Tasev

Lubomir Tasev is a tech-savvy journalist from Eastern Europe who likes to quote Hitchens: “Being a writer is what I am, not what I do.” Besides crypto, blockchain, and fintech, international politics and economics are other sources of inspiration.

photo credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons

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