There’s a darker underbelly to the virtual economy that not many people know about, at least, they’ve heard of it but have no idea how to get to it. After downloading several servers, browsers, and hiding behind multiple proxies and relocating IP addresses, one can access the Dark Web, a much different side than the Clear Web that everyone is becoming so fond of using.
The Virtual Economy is an emergent economy which exists in a virtual world. It is increasingly dependent on this unseen and anonymous space and circulation known as the Dark Web for a multitude of reasons. The anonymity of the “other” side of the virtual world allow for the exchange of illicit things, such as drugs, illegal weapons trade, leaking classified information, and even global terrorism. Though this virtual face is not limited to its abuse, and actually is very helpful in some instances, it is becoming increasingly dangerous as it becomes utilized by a wider variety of people. It can also be responsible for a post-capitalist movement, and a way to avoid a surveilled society.
“Dark Web consists of Internet content that is not accessible through standard search engines. Information on the Dark Web is typically not available to the general population, and is intentionally hidden from the regular Internet, known as Clearnet.” (Lacson and Jones). Though the Dark Web was created in the 1990’s, it didn’t spark its mass popularity until Edward Snowden leaked top secret information from the National Security Agency. When it became known that people’s information was being collected and stored for government access, people felt their rights had been violated. The Dark Net makes it so that information cannot be collected, people are free to explore and purchase things on the internet without it being tied to their name because everything is encrypted. The Onion Router, or Tor, is what one needs to access the Dark Web. What it does is, “covers your online tracks by blending your internet traffic into data from many servers worldwide to make you functionally invisible,” (Lacson and Jones). It is called Onion because of the various layers of servers, and proxies that the net hides behind. The same content which can be downloaded for public use is what the government uses to hide its own information. It’s not that you appear invisible on the server, but rather your data is being tumbled with thousands or millions of other people’s information, making it extremely difficult to track it back to any one person. While it was, “initially created as a security measure by the U.S. Navy, [it] is now the medium of choice for illegal sites ranging from drug dealing to assassination and terrorism,” (Lacson and Jones, 43). It appears that the anonymity of the Dark Web has left a lot of room for illegal uses of the Tor browser. “Tor itself acts as a serious deterrent for law enforcement for all of the sites it hosts,” (Lacson and Jones, 45). Computers with Tor downloaded onto them act as a node, a central or connecting point, on a multinational level. Not only is the information being scrambled, but if there is an order to shut down a segment of nodes it must also be done on a global level in order for them to effectively be shut down completely. Essentially this also means, the more people who use the browser, the more protection it provides its users.