Imagine an iceberg, we can call the mass protruding the surface of the water the Internet. Now imagine the much bigger mass of the iceberg below the surface of the water, imagine this as the Deep Web. That’s right, much bigger than the common surface Internet we are so used to using. The Deep Web is basically inaccessible to a typical search engine and lays home to the darknet.
The great underside mass of the Iceberg holds a small fraction occupied by the DarkNet, take heed of the word ‘dark’, this is the part of the web that is inaccessible unless specific network software is installed.
The dark web contains illegal practices, weaponry, fake ID’s and Passports, paraphernalia and drugs for sale, child pornography and other unpleasant and disturbing content.
The Dark Net is an encrypted part of the Internet not accessible to the casual Google searcher.
The darknet allows users to conceal their identities by using dedicated software such as Tor, being the most popular with 2.5million users.
Thousands of volunteers set up computer systems as networks to allow users to access and use Tor.
The Tor network basically works by sending a users data anonymously by layering encryptions. The data follows a path each time passing through what are known as ‘nodes’. These nodes peel away a layer and passes on the data to the next node (hence the address name used for specific websites only available on Tor being .onion, corresponding to the several layers encrypting data). This ensures the data is difficult to track back to the original user.
Each node knows the previous and forthcoming node that sent/is sending data however, has no knowledge of previous or future nodes beyond that.
Is the Darknet All Bad?
Lebanon, Mauritania, and Arab Spring nations are hugely strict on controlling content on the internet and free speech is a concept thus not to be performed. Therefore, those that have employed networks such as Tor, are able to host blogs detailing information that otherwise wouldn’t be heard.
In China for example, restricted websites are a part of life, this includes sites such as Facebook and Twitter blocked by what is known as the The Great Firewall of China.
Therefore, journalists and researches are able to report information without fear of being found, surveillanced or persecuted.
Victims of cyber-stalking can also benefit from utilising anonymous software. By blocking their identity, they are no longer submitting themselves to the virtual hands of a stalker; such as an ex who can’t let go for instance.
The darknet is host to many forums for people to access and express how they feel, knowing that their identity is completely anonymous.
To answer a question ‘why freedom of speech is so important’; its how we’re wired. Communication has come a long way in the hundreds of thousands of years humans have walked the planet.
We have sophisticated the way we communicate in its abstract concepts. It’s one of the most powerful tools we have as human beings and differentiates us from our primate ancestors.
Knowledge is power and generally, people don’t like the idea of the unknown. Therefore when faced with a decision to become aware of information or not, the informed option is the desired one.
Censorship is also frowned upon due to the nature of hiding information. This suggests information can be withheld, twisted or covered up to serve an agenda.
Since Tor is easily accessible and user friendly, younger people aged below 18 are able to navigate their way through the darknet, enabling ease of access for purchasing illegal substances.
That isn’t all; cyber bullying is also an issue due to the anonymous, uncensored nature of the darknet. Leaked or manipulated information about the small details of the personal life of a young person using the darknet, could have detrimental effects.
Not to mention the amount of disturbing and gruesome content one may idly stumble across when searching the darknet. High contents of pornography and ‘live-cams girls’ are known to exist in the subcultures of the darknet. Furthermore sites for pro-anorexia and self-harming are rife preying on vulnerable young people.
You may have heard the infamous site known as ‘Silk Road’ mentioned a few times in the media.
Silk Road was one of the biggest hosting sites for selling drugs and was first taken down by the FBI back in 2013. It then popped up for a second time reinventing itself a new original name ‘Silk Road 2.0’, unsurprisingly history proceeded to repeat itself, in 2014 the FBI ceased the site and took the operator into custody.
Art and Research
Other than the hundreds of kilograms of drugs readily available to buy off the Dark Net and not to mention guns, fake ID’s, new Identities, hackers, assassins (the list goes on), one may also find oneself looking at classified documents, art and research.
This can include eBooks educating the making of weapons and information on military training, among other obvious classified writings. However, it can also include seemingly harmless eBooks such as comics, paranormal and fantasy stories and philosophical writings,.
There are pros and cons to the darknet and the information it holds. Some arguing the right to have access to information and yet others worried about the wellbeing of young people accessing the darknet.
Both of these points strike validity and deserve to be accounted for. But what do you think? Is this dark, unrestricted part of the web an entirely bad thing or can it serve a greater purpose?
Don’t hesitate to post your comments below.
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