Twitter’s Most Important Anti-Censorship Tool Is Currently Dead

Twitter launched its Tor onion service at the onset of Russia's invasion of Ukraine to help people connect to the social network. That site is now dead.
Elon Musk
Image: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Screen Shot 2021-02-24 at 3
Hacking. Disinformation. Surveillance. CYBER is Motherboard's podcast and reporting on the dark underbelly of the internet.

Elon Musk said one reason he took over Twitter is his (easily disputed) beliefs in free speech. Twitter, he said, serves as the de facto public town square. Despite Musk subsequently making all manner of questionable content moderation decisions that throw cold water on his alleged free speech stance, a new one stands out: Twitter’s onion service, a version of the site that could be accessed even in countries that have banned Twitter, is now offline. The bastion of free speech has killed one of the few real, anti-censorship tools it had.


“​​As of yesterday, March 6th, 2023, the certificate has expired – meaning that the onion site is no longer available seemingly with no plans to renew,” Pavel Zoneff, director of strategic communications at the Tor Project told Motherboard in an email. The Tor Project is the non-profit that helps maintain the Tor anonymity network. Users can route their internet activity through Tor to bypass censorship, such as when domestic internet service providers block access to certain websites. Website administrators can also create Tor onion services—also generally known as sites on the dark web—which provide extra protections to Tor users. Facebook launched its own Tor onion service in 2014.

Do you know anything else about the shutdown of Twitter’s Tor onion service? We'd love to hear from you. Using a non-work phone or computer, you can contact Joseph Cox securely on Signal on +44 20 8133 5190, Wickr on josephcox, or email

Twitter launched its onion site in March 2022, the same month Russia blocked access to Twitter and as the country started its invasion of Ukraine. As Motherboard said at the time, it stood to be one of the most significant Tor onion services ever launched, one that could genuinely help people access a site that has become a news service, emergency communications platform, and social network all in one. A Twitter spokesperson said at the time of launch that “Making our service more accessible is an ongoing priority for us.”

Twitter’s onion service going down is not surprising given that the basic functioning of the site is under threat, with users unable to visit links or post photos on Monday.

Twitter may turn its Tor onion service back on. Zoneff said the Tor Project has contacted Twitter about the issue. For the moment, the site remains inaccessible.

“People who rely on onion services for an extra layer of protection and guarantee that they are accessing the content they are looking for now have one fewer way of doing so safely. That's why we feel it necessary to highlight all the ways in which Tor supports a community of global internet users in accessing information freely and safely,” Zoneff said.

Subscribe to our cybersecurity podcast, CYBER. Subscribe to our new Twitch channel.