EFF Promotes Freenet-like System Tor
Hi there again. There are some more misconceptions about the law and the technology that hopefully I can clear up.
First, I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Additionally, the EFF lawyers are preparing a Tor Legal FAQ that might help answer this type of question as well. Keep an eye on the http://tor.eff.org site for updates. (The Legal FAQ will also not be legal advice, but purely informational.)
Okay. First, if you want to help the Tor project/network but don't want to handle unencrypted content or be the exit node that talks to endpoints, then don't run an exit node. Set your ExitPolicy to "reject *:*".
Second, a Tor operator, whether the server is in exit or middleman or mode, has no prior knowledge of the content that might pass through the server. Nor should you capture traffic (with e.g. tcpdump) -- doing so might be a violation of U.S. wiretap laws.
Third, all proxy services, anonymizing and other, are subject to the same issues. Note that Anonymizer.com, AOL, FreeNet, Tor, any given Squid proxy, all have the same content issues. So far, no operators of such services have been sued for providing those services.
Finally, other posters have stated that ISPs have "common carrier" status and thus are not liable for carrying potentially unlawful content. ISPs enjoy no special common carrier immunities for bits they carry, and have no special defenses against this potential liability that shouldn't also apply to a Tor operator (in the U.S).