Science & Tech, World

The Dark Web: A Place for Sex, Drugs, and Criminals?

We have previously touched upon the Tor Projects, and how the Tor Browser enables people to surf the internet anonymously. While it does make sense and provides many people around the world with much-needed safety against control and oppression, there certainly is a dark side to it. Behind the curtain of internet privacy, there is a dark corner of the internet, called the Dark Web, but is it really as dark and criminal as everyone says it is?

The Dark Web

Before we dive into this one, be aware that there is a distinction to be made between the Dark Web (sometimes also called Dark Net) and the Deep Web. The Mainstream Media and several other news outlets love to call out the deep web as this vast place that hides behind the surface web.

Most love to refer to it by picturing an iceberg where the visible tip is the openly accessible internet, while the vast majority of it is hidden in the dark underneath the surface. To make this as short as possible – yes, the surface web is many times smaller than the Deep Web. The Deep Web is, however, far from accessible and even further from a criminal breathing ground.

It, first of all, describes the amount on the internet that is not directly accessible. This includes everything that runs in the background of websites for example. Banking data, information, everything that is not indexed by search engines like Google. Then within that Deep Web, there is a little corner – the actual Dark Web, which is, even compared to your normal internet, incredibly small.

Is the Dark Web Illegal?

The Dark Web in itself is only accessible through the Tor Browser. It’s users, as well as the servers the websites in this corner run on, are therefore completely anonymous and are, theoretically, very hard to track with conventional methods. The URLs to those sides look like any other except they end on .onion and are hardly all criminal. If we had to give you a brief description of what the Dark Web is it would be this: Dead links, long loading times, fake websites claiming to offer criminal services that are scams, actual criminal sites and a vast majority of perfectly legal sites and communities that just prefer to stay anonymous.

There is no denying that some illegal businesses do thrive in this unregulated corner of the internet, but labeling it as a purely criminal endeavor would be a fatal mistake. The Tor Network, as well as the Dark Web, enable good and important things. It may be used as a layer of protection for some criminals, but at the same time, it also protects journalists, whistleblowers, and people from parts of this world not blessed with unrestricted internet access.

Important sites like Wikileaks started in the anonymity of the Dark Web and use it to this day to provide people with a secure and encrypted way of enclosing information. It is safe to say, that many truths we are now aware of emerged only with the help of a Tor Browser and the, nowadays mislabeled, Dark Web. But how did it get a bad reputation?

The Silk Road: Narcotics Online Sale

The Dark Web got its limelight with the emerging of Silk Road in 2011, the first major unrestricted free marketplace where almost anything could be sold. It mainly evolved into a market where drugs were distributed worldwide to anyone. It was the first to combine the anonymity of the Tor Browser with the anonymity granted by the Cryptocurrency Bitcoin, creating an almost perfect place to acquire narcotics.

The U.S. was very quick and thorough, starting massive investigations and eventually managed to take Ross Ulbricht into custody as the infamous Dread Pirate Robert, owner, and operator of Silk Road. Coverage surrounding the case as well as the trial had characteristics of a witch hunt that didn’t seem to solely aim at the fact that there was a new criminal enterprise underway that had to be stopped, but to demonize the Dark Web in its entirety and dismiss it as a lawless place that could only ever spark criminal activity.

The War on Drugs in the U.S.A. is a fiercely fought battle, however, taken at face value one has to wonder about the effectiveness of the whole proceedings. Surely enough once the Silk Road was seized and subsequently shut down, several other similar websites appeared on the Dark Net, one of which was a relaunch of the Silk Road, with another operator at its helm calling himself Dread Pirate Roberts.

While Silk Road was (and still is), distributing illegal products and making quite some money with it, it is not a moral free zone. This, in fact, can be said for most parts of the Dark Web, which does have a moral code that is adhered to by many of its users.

About Andreas Salmen

Born and raised in Germany, learned a job in IT and Business and ultimately decided that this wasn't exactly where my life was going to end. Left everything behind to become a writing backpacker instead. The world's crumbling away anyway so why not write about it and get a few good Instagram pics on the way, am I right?

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