Earlier this month, a Tor node operator in Russia was arrested in a potential misunderstanding about the nature of the decentralized network.
Dmitry Bogatov, a lecturer at the Moscow Finance and Law University, was taken into custody on April 6 and charged with organizing mass unrest, which was later appended with the more serious charge of incitement to terrorist activity. He remains in custody at this time.
Bogatov is accused of writing posts at sysadmins.ru in late March that encouraged protesters to join in an April 2 anti-corruption demonstration with “rags, bottles, gas, turpentine, styrofoam, and acetone.” Another post by the same handle, “Airat Bashirov,” linked to Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” which is both a very stylized depiction of a fictionalized police protest and a really good song.
Bogatov was charged after Russian authorities traced the IP address associated with the posts to his home. He maintains that the posts did not originate with him and instead were sent to his home server as part of the anonymous global traffic that travels to the Tor node that he hosts. Tor nodes serve as relay stations for anonymizing global web traffic in the Tor network, a popular online privacy tool for anyone looking to keep their browsing habits wholly obscured.
Unfortunately for Bogatov, hosting a Tor node at home in a nation aggressively ferreting out dissent is a dangerous game. Reportedly, there is security footage that shows that Bogatov was out with his wife when the messages in question were posted online, and a post on Hacker News suggests that someone continued to post under the Airat Bashirov username after Bogatov was taken into custody. Still, Russian authorities do not appear to be backing down, instead opting to hold him until his June 8 trial date.