SAN FRANCISCO—Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Tuesday launched the Tor University Challenge, a campaign urging higher education institutions to support free, anonymous speech by running a Tor network relay.     

Universities answering this call to defend private access to an uncensored web will receive prizes while helping millions of people around the world and providing students and faculty a vital learning experience. 

“Journalists, political and social activists, attorneys, businesspeople, and other users all over the world rely on Tor for unfettered, unmonitored access to knowledge and communications,” EFF Senior Staff Technologist Cooper Quintin said. “Anonymous speech always has been a pillar of democratic society, letting us discuss anything without fear of retribution. And facilitating this discussion can be a great educational opportunity for students and faculty alike.” 

Made up of volunteer-run relays, the Tor network allows human rights defenders and organizations, at-risk communities, and people experiencing online censorship or government surveillance to browse the unrestricted internet with as much privacy and anonymity as possible. A Tor relay is a computer that’s a part of the anonymization process; a Tor bridge is a relay that’s not publicly listed, in order to circumvent censorship in countries that block IP addresses of known relays.      

Currently, roughly 7,000 relays and 2,000 bridges help make up the global network by simply donating a spare computer, bandwidth, and time. Universities already volunteering Tor relays include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Technical University Berlin, University of Cambridge, and others.  

University-run relays provide students with hands-on cybersecurity experience in a real environment helping real people, while stimulating discussion about global policy, law and society, particularly regarding free speech issues. It can help build community between students and faculty, as well as advance research and recruitment. 

Universities are ideal sites for hosting Tor relays as they tend to have good network connectivity, lots of technical expertise to run relays—including professors, students, and IT teams—and generally value freedom of thought and expression. By running a Tor relay, universities can directly promote themselves as defenders of intellectual freedom and vanguards against censorship. 

To learn more about the Tor University Challenge:

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