You can find anything on the Internet. Proving that in “The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld” (ISBN: 9781612194899) is author and social media analyst Jamie Bartlett. Turns out that a lot of the online netherworld is pretty wild (and often not very pretty).

The Dark NetIt has plenty of sex and a fair amount of drugs, but very little rock ‘n’ roll. Jamie Bartlett’s The Dark Net delves into carnality, dangerous substances, pornography, pedophilia, alternate currencies, cryptography, and various people who are taking technology to new heights. Or perhaps depths. He also writes about some folks who are working to combat technology itself.

Enter a Hidden World

Ah, the strange offerings of the Internet. “For some, the dark net refers to the encrypted world of Tor Hidden Services, where users cannot be traced, and cannot be identified.” It also refers to pages that are out of the reach of regular search engines (yeah, Google can’t deliver everything to you, it turns out).

The shrouded portion of the World Wide Web, Bartlett writes, is a place offering “worlds of freedom and anonymity, where users say and do what they like, often uncensored, unregulated, and outside of society’s norms.”

The dark net is rarely out of the news — with stories of young people sharing homemade pornography, of cyberbullies and trolls tormenting strangers, of hackers stealing and leaking personal photos, of political or religious extremists peddling propaganda, of illegal goods, drugs, and confidential documents only a click or two away appearing in headlines almost daily…

Good and Bad

On the one hand, communication is facilitated by all parts of the Net. On the other hand, the dark net “gives violent racists and xenophobes a platform on which to spread their message quickly and effectively.” This would seem to be superfluous here in the U.S. because the Republican Party is already doing those things.

Word Salad

Woefully, there is no index in the book, so you might find yourself flipping pages to find the first mention of acronyms that too often come tumbling at you in bunches. The author is British so some expressions are unfamiliar — as are some spellings — and there are tons of terms: IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) and CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) and EDL (English Defence League) and CIC (Catalan Integral Cooperative) and AOA (age of attraction) and AF (adult friend) and NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) and you get the idea.

There are even a couple of groups I am seriously thinking of joining based on their names, such as RIFT (Revolutionary Independence from Technology) and Clodo (Committee for Liquidation and Subversion of Computers).

While familiar with the term cyberpunk (a sci-fi genre in literature and movies that wallows in dystopic lawlessness and technological nightmares), The Dark Net often references cypherpunks and the cypherpunk movement (activists promoting social changes like increased privacy via strong cryptography).

The Net Result

Bartlett takes a journalistic approach to his topic, calling the shadowy portions of the Internet “a place without limits, a place to push boundaries, a place to express ideas without censorship, a place to sate our curiosities and desires, whatever they may be. All dangerous, magnificent, and uniquely human qualities.”

You might want to read The Dark Net just for the definitions of things like Bitcoin, blockchain, trolls, doxing, Tor Hidden Service, and that damn “captcha” thingy at the bottom of some sign-in pages (it stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart). Or perhaps you’ll be drawn to the 25-page chapter on child pornography. Or the 27-page chapter on Internet sex shows. Or the discussions on embracing technology to live forever.

The choice is yours. Kind of like on the dark net.



For Further Information:
“The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld” by Jamie Bartlett; Melville House Publishing, Hardcover, 320 pages, ISBN: 9781612194899, $27.95, 2015.

Publisher Information:

Full list of notes/links:

VIDEO – Jamie Bartlett TED talk (YouTube):

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