The Internet that we mortal human beings non IT experts navigate day after day is only the surface of an immense ocean whose deep waters are filled with God knows what kind of unrevealed information.
The deepweb, as it is commonly known, exists because, opposite to the common belief, Mr. Google and its fellow search engines do not know everything. There is a great amount of sites that the search engines cannot access due to different reasons: some are protected with passwords and/or codes, some are in non-indexed formats, some are completely isolated from all the other sites (not linked in any way)…the causes may vary but the fact is that there is a whole word in the depths of the Wide World Web. Just so that you get an idea of its immensity, and although there is a lack of agreement about it, the deepweb holds approximately the 96% of the information on the Internet.
Nowadays Tor (The Onion Router) is the most famous browser that allows anonymous access to the deepweb. Its more than 800.000 daily users and 50.000 annual downloads prove to what extend interest is shown to explore the hidden side of the Internet.
Transactions with standard currencies would be easily tracked, so trading operations in the deepweb are sealed with Bitcoins, a digital currency almost impossible to trace that satisfies both the buyer and the seller.
Let’s face it; the Deepnet can be a dark and scary place. Drugs (of dubious quality) are sold, hitmen are hired and child pornography is offered. There is no point in lying about it, but there is, however, a need to clarify some issues. All the previously mentioned services will not be offered to a Tor user just by starting the browser. Whoever is interested in illegal services is going to have to inquire to have access to them. Is it a difficult process? Not really. Is it the only kind of service the deepweb has to offer? Again, no.
Another tip: Tor Software is not illegal to use, it is a tool that legally allows you to hide your identity.Bitcoins themselves are not even illegal, whatever is purchased with them is. To keep it simple: the platform itself is legitimate, the activity the user performs on it will determine if any felonies are committed.
Despite of the great variety of stories to keep you up at night, there is a yang to every yin, and there is a lot that the deepweb can bring on a positive note. Perspective is key. Here are some of its benefits of the hidden Web:
To be completely honest, that one is a double-edged sword. Anonymity results in freedom, which sounds perfect. Sadly it is also the honey that attracts all the criminal activity that gives the deepweb such a bad name.
To appreciate the anonymity that browsers such as Tor (there are others, but they are not as user-friendly) we need to realize that our web actions leave traces of ourselves, a massive amount of personal that shapes what is known as our digital identity. Both companies and governments are extremely interested in monitoring our behavior, and many users prefer to hide their identities to avoid political, economic or social harassment.
To guarantees that the user IP address cannot be tracked (to add an extra layer of security it would be recommendable to log into Tor via a VPN network). It is not that anonymity is not a crime; it is actually a legally recognized right.
2. Freedom of speech
That would be a direct consequence of anonymity. The right to freely express your opinion on any topic without fearing persecution that most western countries take for granted (although with these matters, you never really know what might happen) is almost a utopia in certain parts of the world.
Overcoming censorship is another really positive feature that deepnet has allowed, which directly links us to our third benefit.
3. Political Activism
The deepweb has result in a speaker for noble causes. Oppressive governments are a crude reality in the 21st century. Information is a very powerful weapon to this kind of regimes, and its citizen’s movements on the World Wide Web are strictly monitored to avoid the spread of revolutionary ideas. Blocking websites, especially the ones related to social media, is a common measure in oppressive environments. It is in this context that browsers such as Tor appear as a solution to enable a safe communication line not only in a national level, it also allows international denounce certain situations. The deepweb has had a major role in recent historical events such as the Arab spring.
The deepweb stores the largest virtual libraries you could possibly imagine. It is a great space for researchers, students and teachers, since what they can find in the deepnet will more probably not be available from standard search engines. Scientific findings that have not made public and could influence health and social beliefs of large populations can be found in the deepest of the web waters. Literature from all ways of thinking that you will not find in the book storefronts (pro-suicide, anti-moralism…)are also stored in the deepweb.
5. Amazing individuals
How we act with the resources we have access to concerns our individual responsibilities and judgement. Certain people in what could be called “the deepweb community” is dedicating both time and effort to help other altruistically. From doctors giving professional advice on “The silk road” (drug’s eBay) to individuals who are investigating to expose who is behind the major crimes sites there is a whole movement trying to make the deepweb a better place.
All images are from PIxabay.
However, that is not the case yet, so caution is advised: do not download anything if you are not extremely sure of what it is, do not give any personal information, and do not activate any plugins… use logic.
Media coverage on the topic of the deepweb has been completely superficial. It is way easier to keep an average person away from a territory where “bad guys sell drugs and guns” than to do it from a place where your identity is safe, you have freedom of speech and access to endless resources. How we use them defines who we are.