Wading into social waters
Recently, we've been introduced to two "Tor Project" Facebook Org pages. Neither of which are run by us at Tor, yet. There was also a Google+ page for a while, too. We currently use a few social media methods, such as mailing lists, pgp web of trust, internet relay chat, Identi.ca, and Twitter. Some people are very upset Tor is seemingly supporting Facebook, Google+ and others.
We're expanding into Facebook, Google+, Reddit, and others because our users are asking for it. There are existing Tor communities in many places, and we don't need to formally be at them all. It's great when individuals step up to the challenge and represent Tor in positive ways. However, as people join these communities, they are looking for a real discussion with us. For many people, these platforms are the primary means of communication.
We do have some concerns about social media sites. Let's enumerate these concerns.
- Current social media solutions don't respect user privacy, however it's all we have today. With buttons like "+1", "Like", and "Tweet this" strewn about websites, tracking your normal web activity, Tor is at least one solution to help you stop this global tracking. We believe you should be fully in control of your own data and metadata.
- The users are currently using these systems in very unsafe ways. We can join the system and set up a presence with details about how to use these systems more safely--or if they cannot be used safely at all. The goal is to educate people.The EFF has an explanation of these risks as well.
- We can get our message out to people and have a discussion with them, where they are, even though we don't control the medium and risk getting kicked off the system.
- Some are impersonating us now, and not at the quality level we want to see. A bad answer or impression from a fake Tor is worse than no answer at all.
Why don't we write our own?
Writing and deploying our own social media system is beyond the scope of our mission. However, tor can provide an anonymous base for such a system. We have hope for systems like Diaspora, tent, and FreedomBox.
Nope. #4 could be easily and thoroughly addressed by an unequivocal statement from the TorProject that it has no official presence in social media, has no plans to establish such a presence, does not endorse any social media presence connected with Tor, and that any entity claiming to represent TorProject on social media is an imposter. Nothing could be easier. Neither is there a contradiction between that posture and educating users on the safe(r) use of social media. Unfortunately that will not happen because some here are apparently unable to acknowledge the concept that Tor simply cannot embrace every internet whimsy that comes along and remain robustly anonymous. There is the real conflict.
I think it's important to realise and understand that no restrictions have ever existed which prevents users from browsing Facebook or Twitter and making use of either of these resources, nor do I understand criticism of The Tor Project because of its decision to do so; but I'm not an apologist either. If users decide to use Facebook or Twitter whilst they're also using Tor, it's their decision and their responsibility to do so safely, nobody else is at fault.