A post on the blog Arabcrunch.com went viral this morning, hitting the front pages of both Reddit and Hacker News. The post stated that Facebook had begun blocking logins from users attempting to access it from the anonymized browser TOR. For activists and political dissidents who use the Internet to communicate with the outside world in countries where doing so is a crime, being unable to login to Facebook using TOR posed a huge problem.
Conspiracy theories immediately flourished on both platforms. Several readers speculated that Facebook may have moved to block access via TOR because users’ data is anonymized when using the browser, thus making it impossible to monetize the activity of users on TOR.
In reality, it was nothing so evil on the part of Facebook. According to a post on the TOR blog:
A number of users have noticed that Facebook is blocking connections from the Tor network. 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. Tor and Facebook are working together to find a resolution.
Of course, the sheer amount of conspiracy theories that ricocheted across the blogosphere as soon as the issue was detected speaks to the widespread distrust of Facebook inherent to many of the more influential online communities. We’ve reached out to Facebook and will update if we get a comment back from them.