I don’t want to be overly dystrophic, but these are dark days for free speech. Internet filtering is becoming increasingly common in the world, the regimes are getting better at it and the schemes harder to circumvent.

This is where Tor, an EFF supported project, comes in. It is what’s called an onion router that obscures communication by letting the data pass through several nodes in encrypted form. Using the Tor network, a user in, say, China, can access sites without ever getting caught by the government. People can blog and participate in the public sphere without leaving much trace.

Reporters sans fronti?res have a handy chapter in their publication Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents, which explain the end-user benefits and the technical background using simple, pain English.

Not only people living in countries we westerners normally consider repressive, can benefit from this technology. Even in countries like my native Sweden, the police are maintaining a list of sites that ISP’s are “recommended” to block (link in Swedish). Today, the blocks are used only to fight child pornography – a noble cause indeed – but even the existence of such a system and the power of whatever outbreak of moral panic we might come across in the future is a recipe for disaster. History has numerous examples of when free speech gets threatened by short-term public opinion.

Another threat is the new data retention initiative from the European Union, already ratified in Sweden, also threatens the access to information and the right to free speech by keeping record for several years of all calls made, e-mail’s and internet sites visited.

A solution to all these problems is to hide – and hide well. To help facilitate this I set up a Tor-server today, and donate a chunk of my available bandwidth to those in need.