back to article Tor blimey, Auntie! BBC launches dedicated dark web mirror site

The BBC has launched a .onion version of its news website on the Tor anonymising network aimed at readers based in countries that ban its services. In a statement, the Beeb said it had made its news content easier to access by audiences who live in countries where BBC News is blocked or restricted. "This is in line with the …

  1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

    it had made its news content easier to access by audiences who live in countries where BBC News is blocked or restricted.

    Yet it still geo-blocks it's own sites, so that I have to use a UK proxy to get to bbc.co.uk and UK-centred news, rather than being redirected to bbc.com.

    1. Foxglove

      I'm in the UK and I use a VPN to pretend I'm not to avoid having to use BBC Sounds.

      1. GnuTzu

        Oh, please explain this for us ignoramuses outside the U.K., both the "BBC Sounds" part and the "having to use" part. (Though, I will bother to Google... err, DuckDuckGo this.)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          a while back they revamped the BBC Radio site to make it more 'down wiv da yoof' and rebranded it BBC Sounds ('cos they also include podcasts and more clips for the snapchat generation who don't have the attention span to listen to a whole programme).

          More recently they killed off the old iPlayer Radio app in the UK, a half decent way of browsing and listening to BBC Radio output on a phone or tablet (Playstore score ~3.8), and replaced it with the BBC Sounds app that currently has a score that has climbed from 1.8 to 2.2 with many people saying they wouldn't even get it a single star if that was possible (can't leave a rating otherwise)... episodes are seemingly listed randomly rather than together, 'go back' takes you to the top of a list, 'recommended for you' bears no relation to your subscriptions, scrolling is poor...

          1. illuminatus

            Don't forget how piss poor it is if you don't listen to the national radio networks and are predominantly local.

          2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change Bronze badge

            AIUI "da yoof" don't like "BBC Sounds" any more than the rest of us.

          3. GnuTzu
            Thumb Up

            Thanks for the reply (three responses upvoted). A web search just didn't get me that kind of perspective (though I suspected as much).

            It's like that operating system that keeps losing features and forces you to only use a lame interface--for those of us in a locked down workplace.

            Welcome to a world of product designers that now understand that they can "capture" (i.e. enslave) the majority--while leaving most dissenters to think they're just stupid.

            (Yeah, I think that even non-profits do this to, because schools now teach this stuff, and they just think that's what good design is. O.K. so they are stupid.)

            1. Foxglove

              My main reason is it means I can listen to programmes without logging in.

              BBC Sounds requires me to create an account and log in to listen which I don't want to do. Doubly annoying as the people who pay the license fee have to have an account but people outside (or pretend to be outside) the UK don't.

          4. Blazde

            Similar cycle iPlayer Downloads has been through a few times now. It starts off crap but they gradually release updates until it's somehow quite decent and everyone has forgotten how much more awesome the old software was. Then for vacuous 'modernisation' reasons they suddenly pull it and deploy a brand new stripped down, bug-ridden, CPU hungry app that's missing all the features users spent years lobbying for in the previous one. This repeats every 4-5 years and it's utterly infuriating.

            1. NeilPost Silver badge

              Unfortunately it has taken well over a decade and been regulated (by those fuckwits at Ofcom) into the ground.

              - more than 30 days library

              - boxsets

              Etc. asked for since I was an iPlayer beta tester in 2006/7 ish.

          5. RegGuy1 Silver badge

            iPlayer is also shit

            Tonight I thought I'd watch Newsnight -- it was just after 23:00 and they were chatting away about Brexit (now there's a surprise). So I thought I'd go to the iPlayer and I could select play from the start.

            But no.

            It said I was now watching the weather (Kirsty Wark presents the weather?) and I could not go back much earlier than the current time. So I decided to browse the history, only to find it didn't exist.

            I'm not impressed. I thought I'd try it, but it was useless. I guess I'll have to keep making my own PVR recordings, that I can then choose to keep or delete when I want, and that don't have any DRM to stop me doing what I want to do with the content I've paid so much to watch, rather than have the cunts tell me broadcasters' rights matter more than my licence fee.

            As I rarely watch any TV these days (there's nothing worth watching) I'm not really that miffed. I just smile and wait for the day when it is only us oldies who are stupid enough to pay the fee.

            1. Deafasapost

              Re: iPlayer is also shit

              I dunno. Out of interest, I had a look on Iplayer. There's 29 editions of Newsnight available. Wasn't all that hard to find - use a thing called 'search', then click on 'Newsnight'.

          6. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
            Trollface

            Yeah, but apart from that, it's okay though?

      2. NeilPost Silver badge

        You can just use another Podcast aggregator like Apple Podcasts on yer iPhone/iPad.... which benefits from stuff in the wider world like say NPR podcasts too.

    2. IGotOut Silver badge

      "Yet it still geo-blocks it's own sites, so that I have to use a UK proxy to get to bbc.co.uk and UK-centred news, rather than being redirected to bbc.com."

      Just like thousands of other sites? Plus it makes sense for the 99.99% of other people who live outside the UK.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Plus it makes sense for the 99.99% of other people who live outside the UK.

        You mean the ones who can't type "bbc.com" if they want to go there instead of bbc.co.uk?

  2. sum_of_squares
    Trollface

    Coincidence? I think not.

    When I think of all those poor bastards that will go to the darknet, look for "BBC" and expect a news site to show up.

    So this is what they call "british humour", I guess?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Coincidence? I think not.

      and the ones looking for M1LF will think they've struck lucky when they come across Aunty Beeb's personal website

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My first try on the address gave me a friendly Internal Server Error, but a mere reload later, I got it, minus the pictures.

  4. DontFeedTheTrolls
    Black Helicopters

    BBC News

    bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy

    Because that's obviously a trustworthy name to look for...

    1. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: BBC News

      Yeah, I was wondering about the significance of v2vjtpsuy.

      Are we entirely sure that this is a British Broadcasting Corporation provided service?

    2. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: BBC News

      You do realise that you can't just choose the 'domain' name that you get on tor, right?

      I wonder how many iterations of "no good, try again" that one took. It was obviously high enough that they gave up and settled.

      1. Paul Johnson 1

        Re: BBC News

        Well, a .onion address is the hash of a private key. "bbcnews" is 7 letters, and .onion domains use letters and numbers, so a search for a name with that prefix would need on average 36^7/2 = 39,182,082,048 hashes. At 20 million hashes per second that is about half an hour.

  5. applebyJedi

    Why?

    Since the British tv viewer is paying for the BBC, why do they need to dark web their content, I don't need to avoid any firewalls to get the content I pay for.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      BBC World Service used to be paid for by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as part of the UK's diplomatic / soft-power mission.

      It is now paid for by the BBC, but presumably as part of the for-profit company owned by the broadcaster: BBC World, which raises millions internationally, to help subsidise services in the UK.

      So don't worry, your licence fee isn't helping forrinerrs get news.

      1. GnuTzu

        Re: Why?

        And, for those who TLDR: look up "Radio Free Europe" and just ask yourself who pays and why. (Whether your for, against, or just plain skeptical of these things is a different rabbit hole.)

        Anyway, those deets are appreciated.

        1. GnuTzu

          Re: Why?

          Damn, another homonym typo: "you're" not "your". I'm supposed to check those, because the fingers only type what they hear in my head. You know, there are those here who will pull an ad hominem on you if you don't catch them first.

      2. Blazde

        Re: Why?

        FCO funding of World Service was reinstated back in 2015, although at lower level and for the more specific purpose of expansion in specific areas of the world they feel need more 'soft power'. There seems to be some question whether it'll continue past 2020 but it's at least mentioned in the 20-21 spending round published in September.

        Officially, BBC do say the World Service is funded by the license fee(*). I imagine there's some commercial benefit from general brand awareness that helps shift Top Gear DVDs etc around the world, and it helps domestic BBC news have access to a bigger network of reporters in oddball places, but because it's license fee funded it's not allowed to also be commercial (no ads, subscriptions, etc). Figures for 2018/19 apparently £238mil from license fee, £85mil FCO. (So not enough that it could be closed down and free licenses funded for all over-75s instead, even if that were a good idea).

        (*) It's true though that 'license fee' means license fee plus income from the for-profit parts of the organisation.

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      Because of section 6(5) of the BBC Charter: "To reflect the United Kingdom, its culture and values to the world: the BBC should provide high-quality news coverage to international audiences, firmly based

      on British values of accuracy, impartiality, and fairness."

      -- http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/bbctrust/assets/files/pdf/about/how_we_govern/2016/charter.pdf

      Of course, it would be lovely if the BBC could provide high-quality news coverage to domestic audiences based on British values of accuracy, impartiality and fairness.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        And not a lot of folk know this or anything at all about any part of these sorts of operations

        Of course, it would be lovely if the BBC could provide high-quality news coverage to domestic audiences based on British values of accuracy, impartiality and fairness. ..... Cederic

        The BBC are Charter contractually bound and obliged to deliver from anyone/anything that which will provide high-quality news to all audiences based on British values of accuracy, impartiality and fairness.

        So if you have such to supply, simply sharing it with them is supposed to energise them into presenting it ...... but when politically super sensitive and/or revolutionary subversive and capable of enabling disruption and destruction rather than being simply creative and more orderly and ordered ....... are there battles royal invented and invested in to produce inferior special forces with sub-prime novel sources for retention and maintenance and further promotion of the Status Quo ..... which prolongs systems stagnation and feeds programmed petrification.

        But you can ignore and bypass those distractions with major actions that require only very limited interaction/AIMentoring and Monitoring. That has all worthy old warriors chasing after Grand Masters into new fields to conquer, rape and pillage/populate and exploit with assets that generate future bounty/current growth.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And not a lot of folk know this or anything at all about any part of these sorts of operations

          The BBC are Charter contractually bound and obliged to deliver from anyone/anything that which will provide high-quality news to all audiences based on British values of accuracy, impartiality and fairness.

          So why are most of their news "articles" simply links to twitter?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why?

        I looked at the articles on the BBC news worldwide site and the standard of journalism was FAR better than the twaddle on the UK site, example "should we all stop washing our clothes to save the planet?" with the content culled from some plasticphobic green blog with some seriously dubious claims - fibres from synthetic clothing attract clusters of toxic DDT and BPA in the oceans"....seriously???

      3. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: Why?

        ... and although a bit repetitive... BBC World is now staple standard fodder on your hotel TV around the world... and you can get something to watch if needed.

        1. Oh Matron! Silver badge

          Re: Why?

          Much better than having to listen / watch Richard Quest on CNN

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      RTFA

      "In a statement, the Beeb said it had made its news content easier to access by audiences who live in countries where BBC News is blocked or restricted. "This is in line with the BBC World Service mission to provide trusted news around the world.""

    4. robidy Silver badge

      Re: Why?

      Can El Reg please introduce an IQ filter for Daily Mail and Express readers, anything over 40 should stop this kind of question :)

  6. t0m5k1

    I wonder if they'll stop trying to demonise tor/i2p and encryption in general now?

    Many try to say that tor is the home of kiddy porn and drug markets but the reality is that any one can spin up a website that does not require a DNS address or even allow ANY search engine to crawl it which just means you keep it online for a fixed period, share the IP among the relevant group to get what you want. If you were able to track these sites it would scare you to see the sheer volume of sites like these that pop up on the "normal" internet.

    As other have said previously, "It's easier to hide in plain sight than many think possible as they're to preoccupied looking for cloaks.!"

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      A few years ago I tried setting up a Tor relay using my home connection (not an exit node, I'm not that daft).

      This apparently put my IP on a blacklist somewhere, because after a few days, I was suddenly blocked from accessing any BBC sites (even though I wasn't using Tor to do so).

      The only solution was to stop Tor, and turn off my router for ten minutes to get a new IP. Presumably someone else got a new IP that was pre-blocked from the BBC.

    2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change Bronze badge

      Remember 20 years or so ago? The BBC was talking about the 'net all the time, but thought it was all about porn.

      Then they changed tack and anointed themselves Blighty's leading website ...

  7. Paul Johnson 1
    IT Angle

    Why a ".onion" service?

    Why does the BBC need a ".onion" service?

    TOR routes your packets through its "onion" layers to obfuscate your location, but when those packets reach an onion "exit router" they are put out on the normal Internet. So someone in Elbonia who needs to hide the fact that they are accessing the BBC can use TOR to go to bbc.co.uk, and the Elbonian Secret Service will be non the wiser.

    The .onion domain works the other way round; if you want to offer a web server without giving away your location then you can generate a name in the .onion domain, and the TOR exit router will then route your packets to your secret server. This would be useful for an Elbonian dissident who wants to host a secret bulletin board, but publicly saying "We are the BBC and we offer bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy.onion" defeats the purpose of having a .onion address in the first place.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why a ".onion" service?

      FTFA: "Onion services take load off scarce exit nodes [and] preserve end-to-end encryption; the self-authenticating domain name resists spoofing; and it means that users can't accidentally not use Tor."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why a ".onion" service?

        This must have taken quite a bit of effort: the BBC website uses an absolutely terrifying number of domains (bbc, bbci, and several more) and hostnames, not to mention shitloads of third-party analprobes, sorry, "analytics", and embedded third-party content (from all the worst data-mining twits), all in a very non-GDPR-compliant way.

        Are they absolutely sure none of that leaks out from their TOR site?

  8. Augie
    Big Brother

    I dont even know where to begin..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Holmes

      Peel your onion, chop it up fine, and fry vigorously with your choice of complementary ingredients.

      1. Clunking Fist Bronze badge

        "complementary ingredients."?

        You need to practice safe cooking: always use a condiment.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
          Coat

          > always use a condiment.

          salt your hashes?

      2. Pangasinan Philippines

        There will be 'Tiers'

        There will be 'Tears'

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >I dont even know where to begin..

      The point of Tor is that 'they' don't know where you end

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just start at the very beginning.... It's a very good place to start...

  9. molletts

    Accidental deanonymisation

    it means that users can't accidentally not use Tor

    Not strictly true. The authorities in a country where Tor is needed to get free access to information could arrange for fake DNS responses to be returned for .onion sites, maybe even routing the requests through a proxy server onto the Tor network so that people might not notice immediately that they had forgotten to switch to Tor. That way, they could easily catch a few users and possibly discover hidden services that may be "of interest" such as sites used to coordinate protests.

    This is, in fact, how Tor transparent proxies, used to "torify" an entire network, work. A simple setup will return the IP of the proxy server for all .onion addresses, then extract the required "domain" (.onion address) from the HTTP request, while a more complex setup will return a dynamically-assigned IP address from a large pool for each different .onion address that is requested, with the proxy server, answering on all addresses in that pool via NAT, using either a reverse lookup or some kind of direct IPC with the nameserver to map it back to a "domain".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Accidental deanonymisation

      The authorities [...] could arrange for fake DNS responses to be returned

      As a Tor user, wouldn't you also make sure that your DNS requests can't be tampered with?

    2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: Accidental deanonymisation

      This doesn't negate your point - there are loads of different resolvers, and configs can be changed - but interestingly, the "unbound" resolver rejects all ".onion" requests by default.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can someone explain what this means? I is a bit dim.

    "Among other things, it will protect those who are a little too hasty to control-V."

    1. Olivier2553

      Re: Can someone explain what this means? I is a bit dim.

      They may mean that if you paste a .onion address in a non-tor browser, your request will fail, but if it was a standard address, you would be connected without protection.

  11. Captain Boing
    FAIL

    "trusted news"

    LOL, you so funny Auntie

  12. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    news content easier to access by audiences who live in countries where BBC News is blocked

    We used to get bbc.co.uk/news in Ireland. Now it redirects to bbc.com

    We still get R4 LW, BBC on FTA Satellite.

    However I stopped using the BBC web news because there was so much inaccurate, lazy and propaganda. I checked just now and something has broken as the https://www.bbc.co.uk/news is loading though some articles are coming up on bbc.com

    I no longer have any confidence that what is being served is what is seen in NI, England, Wales or Scotland.

    Or is honest.

  13. Muscleguy Silver badge

    hoots Mon

    Here in Scotland the idea that the BRITISH broadcasting corp would be trusted is laughable. Even those who are unconvinced by Independence this is true. It's only the few unreconstructed crusties who still watch BBC IN Scotlanshire 'News'.

    I do not have a TV or a TV license because I object to being forced to pay to be lied to. Even former BBC hacks were appalled by their naked propaganda effort in the latter stages of our indyref. They had never seen the like.

    If I was bursting for a pee and passing Pacific Quay in Glasgow and it was on fire I would not waste my body water on it. Hell mend it and all who still work for it.

    Tick Tock BBC Scotland Tick Tock

  14. simonb_london

    Not worth it

    BBC News sounds just the same to me today as Radio Moscow sounded to me in the 1970s and 1980s. A useless, robotic propaganda station.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can add Australia to the list soon

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/21/world/australia/news-media-protest-secrecy-government-right-to-know.html

  16. MatthewSt Silver badge

    I got my IP address blacklisted from iPlayer a while back for running a Tor relay because their script didn't know the difference between relays and exit nodes so it's great to see how far they've come

  17. demented

    They want to peddle their FAKE NEWS & Propaganda everywhere now , time it was closed down

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