Tor Relay Operator Convicted for Child Porn

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William W. was charged in November 2013 after police raided his home, confiscating 20 computers and assorted game consoles and Internet devices such as tablets and cell phones.

The 22-year-old defendant – who has been publicly identified in international media and court documents – was found guilty on July 1st by the regional criminal court in Graz, and was sentenced to three years of probation, as well as being required to pay €30,000 in court costs and legal fees.

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The court imposed a reduced sentence, because the man waived his right to appeal.

The allegations against the man were that he operated a technical mechanism that made it possible for anonymous persons elsewhere on the Internet to conduct illegal activities – such as accessing and distributing illegal child-pornography – and that he knew it ‘could’ be used for such purposes.

In his defense, the IT administrator compared himself to a post office – it delivers letters, but is not responsible for the contents of those letters, because the envelopes are never opened.

The court ruled that knowledge that such an anonymous relay – known as a Tor exit node – could be used for illegal activities was sufficient for him to be convicted under section 12 of the StGB (Strafgezetzbuch) – which states that a person is legally responsible when “Not only the immediate offender commits the offense, but also anyone who intended another to carry it out, or otherwise contributes to the completion of said criminal action.”

The prosecution argued that the defendant demonstrated a clear knowledge that such an anonymizing relay was likely to be used to commit such offenses, and therefore by operating the node, he was failing to prevent them – or “otherwise contributing to the completion of said criminal action.”

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This knowledge was based on Internet posts, where the man acknowledged that he was aware of such use.

Several Internet freedom advocates claim that such a ruling essentially outlaws the operation of a Tor node in Austria, as it could potentially be used to carry out illegal activities.

Previously, Austrian legal opinions have supported the view that service providers are not responsible for the transmitted content of their networks (based on Austrian e-Commerce law, as well as Directive 2000/31/EC of the European Parliament.)

The defendant is now facing bankruptcy, and was hospitalized with an apparently wrongly-diagnosed case of paranoid schizophrenia and PTSD.

Photo: TOR Project

Tor (The Onion Router) is an Internet technology that was developed by the US Navy in 2002 to protect the anonymity of political dissidents, gain access to censored information, and to organize proscribed political activities free from authoritarian interference.

Tor has been a particular target of monitoring by the NSA, according to recent reports from German public broadcaster ARD.

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Tor Relay Operator Convicted for Child Porn,
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