Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University


Who Uses the Dark Web?

               The access to the Dark Web isn’t limited to any specific age group or country, just as the clear web isn’t. Anyone with sufficient technology skills and proper research can obtain the Tor browser and find the proper links or plugins to get to any sight. “While the Dark Web does prove to be a haven for drug dealers, arms traffickers, child pornography collectors and other criminals, it is also a bastion of free speech for political dissidents living under oppressive regimes and a sanctuary from government surveillance, experts say,” (Volpenhein). The accessibility and the anonymity make the Dark Web a breeding ground and a safe-haven for activists and people living in oppression or with untrustworthy governments. Many of the users on it include political dissidents, activists, journalists, law enforcement and the military—much different from the terrorist organizations, drug dealing, and child pornography users. While it has been exploited, most commonly because of the Silk Road (which was the most broadcasted instance of a site on the Dark Web), the Dark Web has many important uses. One article expressed this saying, “Tor has been used as a way to enable those people to communicate and get those messages out and even organize within their own countries in ways that stop them from being detected, ” people of all ages come together in harsh political times in order to force change (Volpenhein). The Dark Web allows this to be possible while allowing them to be virtually undetected.

           People in the United States even use Tor for this purpose, a former contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency named Edward Snowden used the Onion browser to communicate with journalists in order to leak top secret information about the Unite States government and the mass surveillance systems in the country. This was controversial and also ground breaking for the United States, and sparked a lot of people’s paranoia and also an influx to using the Dark Web as a way to stay anonymous. The browser can be used for situations as this and even for sparking revolutions in countries like Egypt and Libya—which it has in the past.

    This does not mean that there aren’t agencies using their best abilities to seek out the people using and doing illegal things on the dark net. It is not uncommon for a website or illicit ring of people to be shut down or arrested. This could be seen when the original Silk Road was shut down, and the creator of the site was imprisoned. The sticky part of this situation and this economy is the question of who is at fault. The man who created the site, Ross Ulbricht, was sentenced to life in prison-- however he was not one of the people actually selling any goods or services on the website. He received the blame and the sentence for creating the channel in which others could sell drugs, fraudulent documents, etc. and those who were doing these things remained anonymous for the most part and received no punishment.

  There have been some scary stories told about what is changing in this virtual environment. A girl in Italy killed herself after a video of her performing sex acts on a new partner went viral on the internet when an ex boyfriend posted it to a website. She became a laughing stock following the mass viewing and it drove her to the point of death. $101 million was stolen from a bank in Bangladesh using access codes which was hacked and completed all on the internet. 21.5 million United States social security numbers and personal information was hacked and stolen (and probably sold on the dark net). Of course there were Hillary Clinton's e-mails, a huge topic of debate in this years election, which were released after two Russian agencies hacked into US computer systems. John Naughton explains these instances in his article, "Has the Internet Become a Failed State?" as well as why and how these issues have grown on a mass scale. He explains that the internet and reality, or as he says meatspace, are two different universes running parallel to each other. For awhile they ran that way but now they are converging. The only issue with these universes colliding is that the rules in reality don't necessarily apply on the internet. That is, at least they are less likely to be followed, especially when there is no sense of who is committing the crime. Naughton claims, "
Cybercrime has already reached alarming levels and, because it largely goes unpunished, will continue to grow," and this is true. The dark net and the crimes which are accomplished are very rarely punished. Unless of course someone slips up. Naughton also goes on to say, "Social historians will say that there’s nothing new here: the world was always like this. The only difference is that we now experience it 24/7 and on a global scale," and the fact that the internet is cast into such a wide web and so easily accessible by literally anyone creates another prime reason why there is so much room for corruption. The internet can't just be shut down like these hackers can shut down large corporations systems though. It's going to be extremely difficult to create a scenario where these crimes are virtually removed from the internet, and because of this the way we see cyberspace, criminals, and law will continue to change and grow like the internet itself. The internet is blending with reality and becoming the new universe, which means everything from the economy to the law will be effected.

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