A number of Tor network users recently reported problems reaching Facebook. These problems weren’t random; Facebook was and is blocking users coming through the Tor network. Does Mark Zuckerberg hate online anonymity? No (or rather, not in this case). One of Tor’s developers, Runa A. Sandvik, wrote a blog post and took to Twitter to emphasize that the blocking had nothing to do with bad blood between the social network giant and the Tor Network.
If you’re wondering what the Tor Network is, it’s worth checking out (especially if you’re interested in digital privacy, which is a pretty hot topic these days): the Tor network is a piece of free software that can substantially hide your online browsing habits. It was originally developed to protect the U.S. Navy’s communications, but now anyone can use it – it works by scrambling your information through a series of randomized relays. It’s an awesome tool for people who like to maintain more anonymity than a regular network connection affords, although it can make your Internet seem sluggish, since it has to send your information in so many directions. And now there’s another drawback: You may not be able to access Facebook using it.
This is what comes up when some people try to log on:
This may trouble people concerned about Facebook’s targeted ads, since Tor makes it more difficult for these advertising campaigns to properly target you. As Sandvik noted, “Using Tor to access Facebook means that Facebook will not know where you are logging in from.” But Sandvik pointed out that Facebook still has plenty of information on you since you’ll be logged into your account. So even when the Tor-Facebook connection gets fixed, simply using the network won’t really throw them off your scent completely.
Sandvik’s blog post was optimistic about the situation, though. And it made sure to state explicitly that this was nothing nefarious on Facebook’s end. “Facebook is not blocking Tor deliberately. However, a high volume of malicious activity across Tor exit nodes triggered Facebook’s site integrity systems which are designed to protect people who use the service.” Sandvik wrote that Facebook and Tor will be working together to solve the problem, but she couldn’t elaborate beyond the blog post. “I hope to publish an update on this in the coming days.”
Sandvik said that the Tor users experiencing problems with Facebook were not limited to a specific geographic area, so no matter where you are, you might be having issues using Facebook through Tor – hopefully they’ll sort out the problem soon.