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Tor Project 'disgusted' by Daily Stormer, defends software ethos

The organization behind the anonymous browser condemns neo-Nazi site but says it can't choose who benefits from its technology.

The Tor Project says it can't build open source tools for circumventing censorship if it also controls who uses those tools.

A day after The Daily Stormer retreated to the darknet, the organization that helped make that move possible is condemning the neo-Nazi site while grudgingly acknowledging its technology allows the site to continue to spew messages of hate.

A version of the site, dubbed the "top hate site in America," appeared Wednesday on a part of the web that can only be accessed through the Tor Project's browser, which hides users' online identities. The Daily Stormer moved to a Tor onion service after GoDaddy and then Google pulled its domain following an offensive story it published about Heather Heyer, who was killed on Saturday while counter-protesting against white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"We are disgusted, angered, and appalled by everything these racists stand for and do," Tor member Steph wrote in a blog post Thursday. "Ironically, the Tor software has been designed and written by a diverse team including people of many religions, races, gender identities, sexual orientations, and points on the (legitimate, non-Nazi) political spectrum.

"We are everything they claim to despise," Steph wrote. "And we work every day to defend the human rights they oppose." 

With the move, the Tor Project joins a slew of companies and organizations seeking to distance themselves from white supremacist activity on the web. Apple and PayPal have disabled support of their services at websites that sell merchandise glorifying white nationalists and support hate groups, while Reddit and Facebook have each banned entire hate groups

Click to see our in-depth coverage of online hatred.

 Click to see our in-depth coverage of online hatred.

Aaron Robinson/CNET

On Wednesday, internet security provider Cloudflare dropped its support for the  website, essentially allowing it to be taken down with a denial-of-service attack. Twitter also joined the campaign by suspending the accounts linked to the the website.

Steph pointed out the Tor browser is designed to defeat censorship, and the organization can't and shouldn't decide who benefits from that freedom.

"We can't build free and open source tools that protect journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary people around the world if we also control who uses those tools," Steph wrote. "Tor is designed to defend human rights and privacy by preventing anyone from censoring things, even us."

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