Twitter has recently launched a Tor-friendly version of their site specifically designed to work on the Tor browser and Tor onion network.
It was first announced on Twitter by software engineer Alec Muffet, who has helped other large media organizations, such as Facebook, launch Tor-friendly versions of their sites in the past. The address for the onion version of Twitter is: https://twitter3e4tixl4xyajtrzo62zg5vztmjuricljdp2c5kshju4avyoid.onion. The move comes as welcome news for security advocates as well as those living in territories where certain Internet services are restricted by government censorship.
But what exactly is Tor, and why should you care that Twitter can now be accessed there? Read on to find out more.
What is Tor and why is it important?
Short for The Onion Network, Tor is a decentralized network of servers and free, open-source software that allows anonymous communications online. When using the Tor browser, you can surf the web without being tracked or leaving a digital footprint. It blocks third-party trackers from following you online, deleting any cookies when you’re done browsing. Multi-layered encryption keeps your connection secure and stops anyone from seeing what you’re browsing. If anyone tries to monitor your browsing habits, they’ll just see that you’ve been using Tor. This makes it ideal for anyone wanting to access sites blocked by their network.
If you’ve heard of Tor before, it’s likely been in connection with what is dubbed the “Dark Web”, which has all sorts of dark connotations. But the dark web is more than just drug sales and hitmen for hire — it’s a place where Internet users can circumvent censorship and protect themselves from tracking and surveillance.
The debate surrounding Tor is one we’ve heard repeatedly, often from law enforcement and governments criticizing messaging apps that offer end-to-end encryption. To them, the risk of having a fully anonymized space is that a subset of people will inevitably use it for shady purposes. But it can also be used for a lot of good.
Tor was an instrumental resource during the Arab Spring in 2010 and Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing in 2013. Beyond these examples, there are countless licit reasons why a person would want to remain anonymous online and limit their digital footprint. In a world where privacy is becoming more and more of a thing of the past, it’s important to have outlets where people can remain anonymous.
Why have a Tor-specific Twitter site?
So why have a .onion address for Twitter at all? If Tor provides an anonymous browsing experience, can’t you just use the normal HTTPS Twitter site in the Tor browsers? You certainly can, but you might not reap the full benefits of the Tor network, and it may not be as secure as it could be. On his website, Alec Muffet discusses the benefits of websites having a .onion address, pointing out that it shows commitment to their users that utilize Tor and value privacy. Furthermore, connecting to HTTPS sites via Tor can make your browsing experience a lot slower.
At a time of continual data breaches, when it seems like online privacy is constantly under attack, it’s heartening to see a major company take a decisive step toward ensuring user privacy from all angles.
As always, if you have a WWW site, make sure it’s as secure as can be with an SSL certificate.
Cora is a digital copywriter for SSLs.com. Having eight years of experience in online content creation, she is a versatile writer with an interest in a wide variety of topics, ranging from technology to marketing.