The Darknet - how to deal with todays world wide web

I recently finished reading the book The Dark Net by Jamie Bartlett. And now I am a bit confused. Read why …

##The book

I am not going to write a review about the book, because it is not the intention for this post. You can find various reviews with a bit of googling.

Basically, Bartlett is writing about 4chan, doxxing and trolling, fascist people using the web, silkroad, childporn, porn in general, suicide and eating disorder forums and other “dark sides” of the world wide web. Reading the book is often very disturbing but also eye opening.

I have to admit that I kind of disliked the huge chapter about silk road (a website where you can buy drugs online). I not only had the feeling that Bartlett was impressed by the webiste and it’s customer service, but also seems to be a proponent of sites like silk road. I would not say it is a bad thing in general (he stated some points like shrinking procurement crime) but it needs a very broad disussion to find a point of view.

##Demanding the free world wide web

Many of us are depressed what authorities know about us, when we surf the www. And a lot of us are against data mining and spying. At least we do not accept, that state authorities are collecting data from everyone just to make sure to not miss any conversations, phonecalls or metadata from potential terrorists. But some of us are going even further and are strictly against any data mining or spying in any way. We demand a free world wide web. Freedom for privacy. I am one of these people.

To make sure that nobody is able to collect our data when surfing the web, we have some possibilities. For communication between two peers, we can encrypt our data. For example by using GnuPG or S/Mime. When surfing the Web, we can use the Tor-Network and its Tor-Browser. These techniques help to hide our data while communicating or surfing the web.

##The confusion

But there is a big drawback with all these techniques and our call to the authorities in stopping to spy anyone at all. “The other side” does know these tools also very well.

If you come to the silly conclusion to buy drugs online at silk road, you can do this only when using the Tor-Network by using the Tor-Browser. You have to provide some registration information for sure. To make sure that no one will be able to follow the way back to you, all your trails are blurred. It’s your descision if you want to take the risk. I hope you will not do! (Btw - you will need to priovide a rwal address where the drugs will be sent to … wtf?).

On the other hand, if you want to find some child porn images you have to use the same techniques to hide your data. The administrators of child-porn forums have only one thing in mind: securing the site and resources from the authorities. It is your descision if you want to search for these ressources but it is my descision, that this is in no way acceptable. Never ever!

So here we have a problem. On one side we are able to use the techniques to hide our data from authorities spying us. Ok. Then we can use these techniques for example to harm ourselves by buying drugs and killing us in the end. But there is also the big problem, that ill people with commonly inacceptable sexual orientation are using these techniques to follow their illness.

I don’t want to forget mentioning, that also the ill minded soldiers from the selfcalled ISIL and many other terrorist groups are organising themselves with the help of the above mentioned techniques.

##The question

I ask myself how this should be handled. On one hand, we want to keep our data private. On the other hand we don’t want to accept annonymous abusement of people (especially women) in the world wide web. We don’t want to accept child pronography ressources in the www. We don’t want terrorist to be able to hide themselfs in the depth of the www by encrypting their communication. How can we make sure, that they are not able to use the techniques. This is a very tough question and the answer is most likely “we can’t”.

Child pornography was shrinking until the world wide web was growing fastly at the end of the 90’s in the last century. Now it is almost impossible to fight against these ill people. And let’s not forget, that selling this material is also a market now. Sex sells. In any absurd way.

##My take on this

I have two little children. They are 5 and 8 years old. They know how to use a tablet, a smartphone and the laptop. They ask us to open pages like http://www.disney.de/ or http://www.toggo.de/. Wow. It’s unbeliveable how this changed so much compared to when I was a kid.

The world wide web is not the peaceful place we think it is. When I think about my participation in the Apache CouchDB project and the community we have there, I am very lucky. But we have to discuss a lot of issues in the Open Source world in general. Especially women are a target for abusement in the tech scene. Unfortunately.

The world wide web has a dark side. A very dark side. It fears me a lot and I am very concerned about how my children will participate in this www. I am looking for ways to protect them from all dark sides (it’s still a bit early though). But this is tough.

I am not sure what the best way is with regulation compared to a completely free world wide web. The dark sides are very dark and I think it is not acceptable and tolerable in many situations. So I think we need not only guidelines but also … something else.

##Request for comments

What are your thoughts on this? Do you know about the dark net? What are your thoughts about regulating the world wide web. Write me an email to andy@nms.de …

Published: April 06 2015

  • category: