Tor exit node administrator convicted of distributing child pornography

A 22-year-old Austrian has been sentenced to three years in prison for distributing child pornography via his Tor exit node. The Austrian himself did not distribute child pornography, but would have made it possible to spread it via his Tor exit node.

The 22-year-old Austrian, who was arrested in 2012, originally had a three-month unconditional prison sentence. However, the court in Graz eventually sentenced the man to a three-year suspended prison sentence, the Austrian news site Futurezone reports. That means that if he crosses the line again, he will have to go to jail for at least three years. The man has decided not to appeal, making the decision final.

The Austrian controlled a Tor exit node; such nodes are used to tie the Tor network to the rest of the Internet. The court ruled that the 22-year-old man’s exit node “deliberately” facilitated the distribution of child pornography. In addition, the man has said in an interview that he is ‘not interested’ that Tor can also be used for the distribution of child pornography. In chat logs, the man would also have recommended Tor for anonymously hosting content, including child porn. According to the man himself, that quote has been taken out of context.

Tor is software that allows users to browse the internet more or less anonymously. The software is used by activists and dissidents, among others, in countries where there is internet censorship or where internet use is monitored. Tor, originally developed by the US military, stands for The Onion Router in full.

In this context, ‘onion’ refers to the way the system works: Internet traffic is routed through several randomly chosen servers, where only the first server that is visited knows the IP address of the user. Each server ‘peels’ a part of the Tor packets, as it were, hence the ‘ui’ analogy. An important part of the Tor network are the exit nodes: from there Tor traffic reaches the outside world. The exit node does not know who its users are, but to the outside world it looks like the traffic of the users is coming from that exit node.

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