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The Tor Project, a non-profit that runs the Tor web browser, sold an NFT artwork of the private cryptographic key used to build Dusk, the first Tor onion operation, for $2 million in ETH on Friday. The proceeds will go to a non-profit organisation.
PleasrDAO—a decentralised autonomous association (DAO) that pools capital through smart contracts to acquire NFT art that advances the cause of decentralization—purchased the product, which was sold on NFT marketplace Foundation.
“This piece marries so many of the things that are important to us: artwork, privacy, and the cypherpunk ethos,” Red Phone, an anonymous member of PleasrDAO, told Decrypt.
“It’s humbling to be involved—to have some small piece of art that honors everything this technology has done for freedom.”
Tor, founded in 2006 by computer scientists Roger Dingledine, Nick Mathewson, and five others, provides links to websites with “.onion” domains, also known as the dark web. Its Tor browser, which is now used by about 2.25 million users every day, pings web traffic through relays distributed around the globe to hide user behaviour.
The first.onion website, duskgytldkxiuqc6.onion, or “Dusk,” is sometimes used as an example of a.onion domain in Tor documentation. Itzel Yard’s NFT is a work of generative art focused on the theme of Dusk.
The private key will also be transferred to PleasrDAO. However, Dusk, the private key, will quickly become a relic: Tor intends to retire the version of the browser that supports the key.
The Tor Project’s executive director, Isabela Bagueros, told Decrypt that the nonprofit wished to celebrate a slice of the open Internet’s past.
Bagueros stated that the nonprofit was keen to sell its own NFT after seeing the popularity of the Freedom of the Press Association’s auction of Edward Snowden’s “Stay Free” NFT piece, which the PleasrDAO purchased for $5.4 million last month.
By supporting Tor, you are also supporting an ecosystem of applications used by millions of people around the world including journalists, whistleblowers, activists, and human rights defenders who need privacy and security to do their important work. 🧅💜
— The Tor Project (@torproject) May 14, 2021
“We had no expectations about [the] selling price and are blown away by the generosity of PleasrDAO and all auction participants,” said Bagueros.
The charity will use some of the proceeds from the NFT sale to enhance network protection and fund grassroots privacy education efforts. Tor may also contribute a portion of the proceeds to charities that promote internet privacy or fight climate change.
Jesse Powell, the CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Kraken, was the other high bidder. His winning bid was 420.69 ETH, a play on 4/20, slang for a celebration of drug history, and the lewd number 69.
During the Snowden NFT auction, Powell also played against PleasrDAO. “It’s good to see him at it again, and maybe he was a stalking horse all along—getting us to bid higher for a good cause,” said Santiago R. Santos, general partner of crypto investment company ParaFi Capital and PleasrDAO member:
.@PleasrDAO has acquired “Dreaming at Dusk.” Much like the first @Snowden NFT in our collection, this is a priceless piece which is aligned with our ethos. Proceeds will benefit the @torproject and go towards protecting our innate human right to privacy. Pleasing peeps ✨🐣 https://t.co/kdeR2nQelz
— SantΞago R Santos (@santiagoroel) May 14, 2021
“I think we’re at a tipping point of a new creative Renaissance at the intersection of the sharing and passion economy,” said Santos. “It’s powered by the unique properties of digital scarcity and global pools of capital moving at the speed of information.”
“DeFi laid the rails, and DAOs are the trains.”