The National Police Agency in Japan is apparently asking ISPs in that country to “voluntarily” block the use of Tor, the well-known and widely used system for anonymously surfing the internet.
An expert panel to the NPA, which was looking into measures to combat crimes abusing the Tor system, compiled a report on April 18 stating that blocking online communications at the discretion of site administrators will be effective in preventing such crimes. Based on the recommendation, the NPA will urge the Internet provider industry and other entities to make voluntary efforts to that effect.
This is an extreme and dangerous overreaction. Yes, some people abuse the anonymity of Tor to do illegal things. Just as some people abuse the anonymity of cash to do bad things. But we don’t then outlaw cash because of this. There are many, many reasons why people have good reason to seek out an anonymizing tool like Tor to protect their identity. What if they’re whistle blowing on organized crime or corruption (say) in the police force? As for the fear that it’s being used for criminal activity, that doesn’t mean that police cannot identify them through other means. We’ve seen time and time again people leave digital tracks in other ways when they’re committing crimes. Yes, it makes life more difficult for police, and it means they have to do actual detective work, but that’s what their job is.