I was trawling the dark web yesterday looking for writing inspiration (yes, I do that), and what did I find?
No, it wasn’t any disturbing images, sick videos, or child pornography – it was a couple of chat rooms. That sounds innocent enough, but what I’ve learned during my research is that if you give people complete anonymity, they’ll feel free to be themselves.
In the context of the dark web, this can mean a lot of things.
In one sense, it’s ideal for whistleblowers, hackers, and others who merely require privacy for what I would consider “legitimate” reasons. In another, it’s also ripe for pedophiles and other depraved individuals who, for obvious reasons, would want to remain anonymous, but are inclined to share sick imagery and the like.
I’m sure I’m not the first to express this, but I want to give my take on it. So, as I say frequently, it isn’t all sick and disturbed individuals that I’ve come across.
One of the first chat rooms I checked out on the Tor network was one linked to the not Evil search engine, and seemed relatively harmless. (It’s the one in the screenshot above.)
Occasionally, it would have a visitor asking for something along the lines of drugs or the aforementioned red rooms, but that was about it. Although one time, I did receive a message from a user who was a complete stranger:
Anonymous: Hi there. Need to hire a hacker or ruin someone’s reputation?
Me: No, just doing research. Thanks!
Anonymous: ok, well if you do then contact me.
All in all, it wasn’t the strangest exchange I’ve ever had on Tor, but it may have shown my naivete. Since then, I’ve gone back to the not Evil chat rooms, and have rarely had a similar conversation (if you can even call it that).
Going a Little Deeper
Oh, the jokes I would’ve made in 3rd grade over that. Anyhow, another chat room which I’ve used a few times goes by the name of OnionChat. Like the previous one, it seemed relatively harmless, although I suppose you never know who you’ll come across.
In my most recent experience with that place, someone was doxing Donald Trump (surprise, surprise).and his family members. The person released not only their addresses, but social media accounts, phone numbers, email addresses, registry domains, and IP addresses. (Not that I’m going to share that information here, as much as I might be tempted to.)
Snowden or Honeypot? (WARNING!!!!)
Via that same chat room, I received a link to another slightly more mysterious chat room that was supposedly connected to WikiLeaks. In that room, you would be given a randomly generated name before you started chatting (such as “BobRoss09”). Next to the little chat box was a button labeled “Destroy,” which would supposedly purge any chat messages you had left there forever.
The idea behind it (again, in theory) was that if you wanted to submit leaked documents or information to WikiLeaks, you could do it there secretly. Unfortunately, I have no idea if it was genuine, a honeypot, or something worse, and because of that, I’m going to go with fake. I tend not to trust random strangers on the dark web (good philosophy, right?).
It’s possible that the chat room was actually set up by federal law enforcement to catch those who were leaking confidential documents, or set up by someone with malicious intent who wanted to steal important documents. Either way, I’m going to nope the fuck out of there.
By the way, if you really want to submit information to WikiLeaks, they have an official Tor hidden service at WikiLeaks Upload and Form Submission. You can also find their public PGP key here: https://wikileaks.org/#submit_wlkey. For Tor users, here’s the equivalent .onion address: http://wlupld3ptjvsgwqw.onion/wl-submission-key.html (I promise that that one’s not a scam).
A Festering Sewer
The worst chat room I’ve come across so far is another one which I won’t share the link to, because I just know that some of you will click on it.
Essentially, it was the type of place where nothing was out-of-bounds, including child pornography, animal abuse, and/or hurtcore. People would discuss their beyond-sick fantasies in graphic detail, and would also share images and videos candidly.
In fact, it was one of those places where, in order to be admitted to the chat room in the first place, you had to share some CP images or videos. That way they would (in theory) know that you weren’t a cop.
I confess that initially, I did try to join the chat room (if only for research purposes, I swear!), but once I knew that you had to upload this disgusting material in order to join, I hastily made my exit. What I can do is try to simulate the conversations for my readers (without getting too graphic).
Girllover: anyone got pics of young girls
sickfuck: i do hold on
sickfuck: here [689389.jpg]
Girllover: oh wow, that’s hot thanks
necrophile44: anyone have pics of young dead girls?
sickfuck: oh necro, you drive a hard bargain [09890.jpg]
Well, you get the idea. The real thing is much worse than what I’ve written here. I suppose, in theory, just chatting about these concepts isn’t illegal, but the type of people who have these fantasies I would expect to have much worse on their computers.
And I’m sure that this is far from the only chat room of its type on the dark web. It merely shocked me because I hadn’t often taken the opportunity to actually enter one of the chat rooms before.
Am I being corrupted by my dark web research? I don’t think so, but it can take a toll on you sometimes.
As Nietzsche once said, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”
Is That All There Is? (No, Actually.)
I still say that, in spite of the sometimes-horrifying things that you can find on Tor, Freenet, and other networks, they’re still necessary. In an increasingly surveillance-ridden world, there is a need for privacy.
If that means that sometimes crazy and disturbed individuals will form communities, so be it. I think that eventually, they will be found out, one way or another. I still consider myself an advocate of privacy and security.
I’ve just had my eyes opened to the dark corners; that’s all.