Tor Project Wins Award for Role in Middle East Revolutions

The Tor Project has been recognized by the Free Software Foundation for its role in the protests and revolutions around North Africa and the Middle East.

This software, which allows for safe and anonymous web browsing, was given the FSF’s Award for Projects of Social Benefit. The award is intended to highlight “a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society through collaboration to accomplish an important social task.”

Without question, enabling the Internet’s role in political revolution has been an important social task, and one that the Tor Project has explicitly supported. In its section on activist users, Tor reps state that anonymous browsing is essential for reporting abuses of power and organizing protests, especially from behind government-sponsored firewalls and ISP blocks.

“Using free software,” the FSF writes, “Tor has enabled roughly 36 million people around the world to experience freedom of access and expression on the Internet while keeping them in control of their privacy and anonymity. Its network has proved pivotal in dissident movements in both Iran and more recently Egypt.”

In Iran, political dissent before, during and after the 2009 election caused a firestorm on Twitter and Facebook; as a result, the government began censoring many apps and sites. The Tor Project allowed users to bypass the blocks and access the web apps they needed to continue to organize.

And in Egypt and other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, a couple months of steady political unrest has been punctuated by periods of site-specific blocks and even total Internet blackouts. Once again, Tor was instrumental for continuing to allow many users to access the web, where they communicated internally and externally and rallied for change.

Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project, was present to accept the award from the FSF and its founder and president Richard M. Stallman during a March 19 ceremony.

Previous winners of this award include such notable FOSS projects as the Internet Archive, Creative Commons and Wikipedia.

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