Volunteers who maintain the Tor network are sometimes hassled by the authorities. Perhaps child pornography travelled across their exit node—the part of the network where a user's traffic joins the normal web—or maybe it was implicated in the hacking of a website. The FBI has even raided the houses of Tor operators in response to instances like these.
Now, another Tor exit node volunteer is receiving attention, but his case is somewhat more bizarre. Polish authorities have requested British law enforcement to interrogate the node operator because of a 2014 forum post supposedly insulting the ex-mayor of a small Polish town; apparently an illegal act in Poland.
A letter from the District Public Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok, Poland, to the UK Home Office points to Article 212, paragraph 2 of the Polish Penal Code, which says, in sum, that characterising someone else in such a way that might "degrade them in public opinion or expose them to the loss of confidence necessary to occupy a given position […] is subject to a fine or the penalty of limitation of liberty."
According to the letter, a user called "~Gość~" wrote a rambling post on "Forum.Poranny.pl" about Roman Czepe, a former mayor of small town Łapy.
"When he read the post, Roman Czepe felt offended by the words used in it," the prosecutor's letter continues. "He testified that such a statement clearly humiliated him in the face of public opinion."
The poster allegedly used an IP addresses of a now-closed Tor exit node run by Thomas White (who is also known as The Cthulhu). So, the Polish Prosecutor's Office wants UK authorities to question White as a witness, and find out who the author of the post was.
Obviously, even if UK authorities did go along with the plan, an exit node operator has no way of telling where the Tor user ultimately connected from: That's the whole point of Tor. And White isn't ecstatic about helping out Polish investigators anyway.
"I wish to make my position known that I have no intention of complying with the request from the Polish authorities," White told Motherboard in a statement.
"As far as I am concerned, the person who made the post is expressing a personal opinion on a public official, somebody to whom Mr. Czepe is accountable and answerable as a former democratically elected person and a supposed representative of the people of Poland. As such, the poster is entitled to share his opinion and have it entered into the public sphere," White's statement continues.
Katarzyna Dubowska from the Prosecutor's Office in Bialystok confirmed that it is handling the investigation, but declined to answer specific questions.
A Home Office spokesperson told Motherboard in an email, "We can neither confirm nor deny the existence of mutual legal assistance requests."