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Re: Why Are We Waiting for the Cavalry to Ride In? (was Re: court trial against me - the outcome)

On Wed, Nov 14, 2007 at 07:55:12PM +0000, Robert Hogan wrote:
> Secondly, your case is proof, if proof were needed, that Tor is still a 
> project without a rock-solid layman's analogy. Every Tor server operator that 
> ends up explaining Tor to a non-technical or even just plain skeptical 
> audience will encounter the same problem until the crack of doom unless we 
> all put our heads together and document one.

Agreed. Part of the challenge here is that different analogies work for
different people. Explaining why anonymity is useful for individuals
in the US may not quite be the same as for individuals in Europe, and
is probably quite different than for individuals in Guatemala. And
explaining it for law enforcement is different from explaining it for
road warrior executives is diferent from soldiers ...

Some of the technically oriented folks don't like "dumbed down" analogies,
because while they may do a great job at explaining some aspects of Tor,
they mislead the reader about other aspects of Tor. On the flip side, we
haven't found an analogy that is technically accurate and not misleading,
yet can be given in a single sentence.

We get half a million hits each day on the website; I bet we could do
a lot better job at teaching our audience about privacy issues on the
Internet than we do now.

I've been pondering for a little while that maybe we should run a 'Tor
analogy competition', akin to the GUI competition we ran a few years back.
I have no idea who would judge it though.

> Thirdly, Tor operators of the world need to unite. The Tor project is not our 
> daddy. There is no Tor Project cavalry over the hill about to ride in with a 
> coachload of free lawyers. We need to establish a fighting fund for exactly 
> these sorts of cases. This fund needs to be managed by a compaign group in 
> such a way that it doesn't undermine the anonymity of the network we all help 
> provide. I believe informal ad-hoc donations won't cut it. There needs to be 
> an organized body that can accumulate wisdom, develop public credibility and 
> even distribute funds to cover basic legal costs or more. 

I think you should divide the above suggestion into two pieces.

I am all for creating an information center to teach people how to explain
Tor, to hook them up with lawyers in their area, to give contact info
for law enforcement in their area who have already seen a Tor talk, to
explain some of what will hopefully one day be regarded as common sense
(such as "if the police think you might be a criminal and ask you to
explain to them how the Internet works, and you ignore them, they're
probably to keep thinking you're a criminal"), and to actively build a
local community of educatied lawyers, law enforcement, etc.

There are quite a few lawyers in the US who would be happy to give
advice (see Tor's legal FAQ), and we know some in Germany and other
countries. For example, I send anybody with a legal question in Germany
to Julius Mittenzwei, and hopefully he introduces them to useful people
after that. It would be good to have more volunteers than just Julius
that we can send people to.

And it would be great to have more coordinators than just in the US and
Germany -- there are other countries than these two, after all. But as
I've found over the past few years, you really really need a coordinator
inside each country who knows the right people and keeps track of local
policies and laws. Somebody who knows all the coordinators, and who
travels a lot and can keep up to speed on a lot of the issues, would be
useful to help coordinate the coordinators. I'll continue to do what I
can do to help, but I fear I'm wearing rather too many hats these days
as it is.

So yes, organizing better would be fabulous, along with then educating
people more about the fact that people *are* organized.

But collecting money and promising to fund the defense of anybody who gets
in trouble? That brings in a host of complexities. No group of lawyers
I've ever met promises to defend people before they've heard about the
specifics of the case and the defendant. It simply wouldn't make sense
for them to make a blanket promise only to find out later on that the
defendant has some side hobby or past history that undermines the case.

So I would argue that you already would have a huge challenge, and
would do what most needs to be done, even if there aren't any funds
being distributed.

Hope that helps,