Quinn Norton has a self-serving and faux "peace-maker" piece at Pando Daily in which she attempts to stem the tide of hate unleashed on Tor by Yasha Levine's "exposes" -- about which I've also been critical.
She's also posted on Medium.
My response, posted on Pando:
Quinn Norton has zero credibility as any "air-clearer" not only because she is part of the arrogant hacker cult herself, but because she lied to the grand jury when she claimed her former boyfriend, Aaron Swartz, was not the author of the "Guerilla Manifesto" he published, and that it was some kind of group effort. In fact, the Italians who sponsored the conference that led to his unethical and criminalized document credited Swartz solely as its author on their website after he committed suicide -- I guess she and they didn't line up their stories. The Guerilla Manifesto incites people to commit vandalism and theft and crime by deliberately defying legitimate copyright laws and stealing content -- as Swartz did with Jstor. It's radicalism in the service of a cultic belief in a utopian system and it only endangers freedom and livelihoods. Why are we to respect such anarchist manipulations?
Then Norton goes on to make downright scary claims, as if Tor was the only circumvention tool -- it most certainly not -- and that all that is standing between the freedom and safety of Iranian activists or gay teens is Tor and its preservation. Arrant nonsense. No activist should be putting all their safety in the hands of software, which is a vulnerable human artifact, and in this case, run by unethical thugs prepared to bully and harass people and cause them to lose their jobs over their legitimate Twitter criticism of this software cult. And activists and victims have plenty of other ways besides Tor to keep themselves safe. In fact, Tor is a marker of illegal activity that only draws attention to itself, and as it turns out, rightly so in too many cases.
Quinn makes it seem that if the math is perfect in the code and software is always about the numbers, why, her dubious colleagues in the radical transparency and encryption movement must be allowed any excess and allowed to rule us all with their "math". Norton here espouses Lysenkoism, or worse, the "science" of Marxism-Leninism. Ideology can be perfect and "scientific," and no checks or balances or separations of powers are needed on its imperfect humans, because "it's math."
Tor is not at all a road system or a telephone network, not at all, and these analogies are used perniciously. On roads, you require licenses and license plates -- identity and registration. We don't have that for the regular Internet, much less Tor. But it's that identity that enables law-enforcement to stop speeders, drunk drivers and contraband. We don't want to require licensing for Internet use. But then what's Tor's plan to curb crime, which is very real, including the crime of the abusiveness of the "mathematicians" at Tor itself?! Law-enforcement can get a warrant and tap telephones, which also require real-name registration. Not so the Internet or Tor -- especially now with the invincible encryption of the iphone6. What's the plan then to deter crime? Just leave it to the feds to jam and crack Tor using exploits such as were in the Tor Browser Bundle? Tor thugs are supremely uninterested in the problem of law-enforcement -- especially over themselves. We as a society can't afford to be so indifferent.
Most loathsome is Quinn's notion that she and her hacker friends just haven't found a way to "tell their story" correctly -- fix the narrative, fix the problem, like Kremlin propaganda. Well, no, because lying can't paper over the very real ethical problems in and around Tor. The problem isn't that Roger Dingeldine is a social misfit or can't get his PR right on his brain-child; the problem is that his brain-child is unethical at root because of the notion of using other people to achieve the state's goal or any other goal. Bundling together a lot of disparate use cases of such exploitation doesn't sanitize it. There are other models, and not everything has to happen online. Everything about Dingeldine's concept should be debated in Congress and if need be the courts, because it shouldn't be imposed as a weapon on everyone.
Even more loathsome is the ridiculous idea that Tor is so complex and so technically complicated that journalists without coding degrees can't legitimately write about it. What Norton really means is her oh-so-special circle of anarchists and cultists are seeking exemption from the laws of morality and the laws of the land. The concept really isn't hard, folks. Read some of the early papers, read some of the critiques and you can grasp the basics. I've just outlined them here. Let's not let arrogant "scientists" take over society undemocratically, please, by snowing people with "science."
This is not about Tor "telling a better story" -- i.e. lying better. It's about unethical coders who will not submit to the rule of law, and want to make the rest of us submit to the rule of code.