The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has awarded the Tor Project for championing Internet by protecting Anonymity in an era of social media revolutions. In the wide-spread revolts against autocrats across Middle East and North Africa, anonymity and free access to internet became extremely crucial to continue fuelling the anti-establishment movements.
FSF, a non-profit corporation founded by Richard Stallman in 1985 in support of the free software and copyleft-based movement, honored Tor with the 'Award for Projects of Social Benefit' in a ceremony, held on March 19.
The FSF announcement said, The Award for Projects of Social Benefit recognizes a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society through collaboration to accomplish an important social task.
This year, the award went to the Tor Project. Using free software, Tor has enabled roughly 36 million people around the world to experience freedom of access and expression on the Internet while keeping them in control of their privacy and anonymity. Its network has proved pivotal in dissident movements in both Iran and more recently Egypt.
The FSF award recognizes a project that intentionally and significantly benefits society through collaboration to accomplish an important social task.
Tor describes itself as a free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.
The protests that started off in Tunisia and spread across Egypt, Yemen, and North African country Libya were mobilized on the internet through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and supported on media-sharing platforms like Flickr and YouTube. As the government censorship set in, a fight to restore freedom of expression in the protests-hit countries sparked across the globe.
Explaining the significance of Anonymity, Tor says on its website, Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location. Tor works with many of your existing applications, including web browsers, instant messaging clients, remote login, and other applications based on the TCP protocol.
With unrest born out of the protests still in the news, internet behemoth Google also recently announced a move in the battle against government censorships. The news of search engine giant funding research at Georgia Tech to create tools to detect internet throttling by authorities.
Although Tor, an implementation of, and initially an acronym of, The Onion Routing, has its weakness, the Project has come to earn respect in the internet community. Tor's anonymity function, however, does face harsh criticism from authorities for inadvertently enabling illegal access to censored information.
Executive Director Andrew Lewman collected the award for the Tor Project, which follows previous winners such as Creative Commons and Wikipedia.
At the FSF's annual free software awards, two accolades were handed out. The Award for the Advancement of Free Software was given to Rob Savoye for contributing to the progress and development of free software, through activities that accord with the spirit of free software. Savoye has produced Gnash, a free software Flash player that enabled free software users to avoid dependency on a pervasive piece of proprietary software.