Last month, the Tor Project announced that an internal investigation had confirmed allegations of sexual misconduct against high profile activist Jacob Appelbaum. Now, a few members of the community are calling for a "Tor general strike," in part to protest how that investigation was handled.
"Please join our 24-hour Tor blackout on Thursday, September 1st 2016. Use your local time or UTC+02:00," reads an anonymous Ghostbin post, which surfaced over the weekend. It calls for those who run parts of the Tor network infrastructure to shut it down, developers to stop working on Tor, and users to stop using Tor. It also asks people to spread word of the strike.
In addition to the Appelbaum investigation, those calling for a strike are apparently unhappy with the Tor Project's brief hiring of an ex-CIA official. A leaked chat log from an internal Tor Project IRC channel showed that staff of the non-profit were torn over the move, and that some were annoyed about being left in the dark.
"Tor can no longer be trusted after #jakegate / #torgate and hire of CIA," the Ghostbin post announcing the strike continues (those hashtags refer generally to the Applebaum investigation and its fallout)."Its sinking credibility is putting people at risk. We hope it can be healed and regain trust with mass action. A short blackout may hurt in the short term, but save Tor in the long term. It will also allow dissenting voices to be heard." It does not explain how these incidents have put people at risk.
"Journalists and activists use Tor in countries where people can be killed for the things they say"
But many are calling out the strike as a bad idea. The Tor network is used by people to preserve their privacy on the internet in an age of mass surveillance, but it is also used by those who face real, immediate threats, such as political dissidents.
"Journalists and activists use Tor in countries where people can be killed for the things they say," Shari Steele, the Tor Project's executive director told Motherboard in a statement. "Shutting down the Tor network would shut down their speech or, even more dangerous, could force them to use unsafe methods of communication."
The anonymous author or authors of the call to strike continue with a list of 16 detailed demands, including the sacking of recently-hired Steele and co-founder Roger Dingledine. Others state that any current or former intelligence workers must "sever all ties with Tor and related projects." (In July, the Tor Project appointed a whole new board of directors).
Several of the demands relate to the internal investigation, including pushing for more specific details on the claims against Appelbaum to be made public.
However, there appears to be little support for the idea of a strike, at least on Twitter. Even some of those who have also criticised the investigation into Appelbaum have exhibited reservations.
"I agree with the reasons some of you want #torstrike. But please remember that you will harm @torproject users worldwide if you do this," information security trainer Marie Gutbub tweeted on Sunday. Gutbub publicly raised questions about the investigation earlier this month.
At least one Tor relay operator recently shut down their node of the network.
"The situation how the affair about Jake was handled by the Tor project has made me feel very uneasy," Stephan Seitz wrote to a Tor Project mailing list last Friday. (This move does not appear to be directly related to the planned strike).
But, just as quickly as that relay was shut down, at least one more has popped up in its place.
"Today I launched my first @torproject relay," free software hacker Josué Ortega tweeted on Sunday.