Does relay location matter and if so to what extent?

I’m fairly new to the concept of Tor and its network infrastructure, and I’ve been considering setting up a Tor node to contribute to the network. My primary motivation is to assist users in oppressed regions, particularly in the Middle East, in accessing information freely and safely.

I have a couple of questions regarding the impact of a node’s geographical location on its effectiveness:

  • Does the physical location of a Tor node (middle or exit node) play a significant role in how it assists users? Specifically, if I want to aid users in the Middle East, would it be more beneficial to set up a node closer to that region?

  • Is the Tor protocol designed to give any sort of geographic priority based on where users are connecting from? In other words, if someone in an oppressed country is using Tor, does the network favor nodes that are geographically nearer to them for better performance or any other reason?

I’m trying to understand how my contribution can be most effective, and any insights on this would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

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Not as far as I am aware from a performance perspective. Legally though, you will want to ensure your hosting provider permits Tor relays on their network. If you are planning on deploying an exit relay, I highly suggest seeking acknowledgement/approval from your hosting provider first.

What does matter is the Autonomous System and its connectivity to the rest of the Internet backbone. You can read more about other technical considerations, including the above point, below:

AS Rank: A ranking of the largest Autonomous Systems (AS) in the Internet

No, it favours consensus weight, which is derived from multiple factors, including stability, age, etc. Here is a glossary that defines the term further:

About – Tor Metrics


For your first question:

Speaking from personal experience as a Asia user, I find that having nearby Asian nodes as a “first hop” improves performance by a fair margin.
Additionally, one of strengths of Tor is a diverse network spread across many different countries. “A more diverse network is more resilient to attacks and outages.”

For your second question:

Not that I am aware of.

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