Recently, I decided to build the Tor client within my Gentoo installation, just to see if it had changed much since the last I’d used it (ten years ago – how time flies!)
I chose not to use the browser kit, as that approach seemed not to be in line with Gentoo usage (if the reader is not aware, until recently Gentoo enthusiasts were always required to build the whole system from scratch/source, including the OS itself and kernel, as CD images and such were not available).
Doing it from scratch allowed me to better see how it was working, and how to configure both it and the browser. After compiling it and setting it up, I spent some time changing entry and exit nodes to force them to specific countries. To my amazement, the exit nodes were nearly always the same, and in many cases a reverse DNS query showed them to be government run. There are configuration settings to control the way the exit and entry nodes are picked, and to roughly control (or “suggest”) the number of nodes to use within the pool.
So, something has happened with Tor. Either all the “volunteer/activist” nodes have gone away, leaving only (or mostly) the governmental ones, or alternaltively the Tor subsystem seeks the latter on a priority basis. As an additional alternative explanation, I could think that I’d had some inconcievably bad luck. I don’t think misconfiguration was an issue either, but can’t rule it out because I’m not perfect.
However; being one to side with my gut feelings on such matters, I’ve tossed the Tor into the refuse basket. I’d suggest activists to do likewise, if they think my gut feelings are real. Or take yer chances that my gut feelings are just last night’s dinner.