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N.H. Public Library Resumes Support Of 'Tor' Internet Anonymizer

A New Hampshire public library has voted to continue supporting the controversial Tor network.

The Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon had decided to use its spare bandwidth to serve as a relay for the network. New Hampshire Public Radio reports the library had turned off the relay node after police and Homeland Security warned the library that, among other bad things, the network could allow criminals to move child pornography anonymously.

The Tor network tries to make Internet traffic anonymous by routing traffic through different nodes before it reaches its final destination. The library set up a node that allowed it to become one of those way stations.

While Tor can be used for criminal activity, it's also often used, for example, by political activists and journalists seeking to break through an oppressive government's firewall or avoid its surveillance.

The Concord Monitor reports that yesterday the library weighed both scenarios and decided to turn its node back on.

The newspaper reports:

" 'With any freedom there is risk,' library board Chairman Francis Oscadal said. 'It came to me that I could vote in favor of the good ... or I could vote against the bad.

" 'I'd rather vote for the good because there is value to this.' ...

"Alison Macrina, the founder of the Library Freedom Project, which brought Tor to Kilton Public Library, said the risk of criminal activity taking place on Tor is not a sufficient reason to suspend its use. For comparison, she said, the city is not going to shut down its roads simply because some people choose to drive drunk."

Macrina told the Valley News that the Kilton Public Library was the first in the country to host a Tor relay node.

She told the paper that "she hopes more libraries across the country and the world will follow suit."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.