What are dark adult web sites

Transcript

[tense music sets in]

Anja: It happened on February 26, 2015: A police special task force stormed an apartment in Leipzig. The aim of the campaign: The only 20-year-old son of the house. He is arrested; Laptops and hard drives are confiscated. But the officials don't have to wait for the data to be evaluated to know that they have made a big catch: In the 20-year-old's youth room, they are securing 48,000 euros in cash - and around 320 kilos of drugs.

It is one of the largest drug discoveries in German history. In his teenage room, right under his mother's nose, the 20-year-old built a thriving drug shipping business - and earned millions before he was caught.

What do you all mean? Is this story true - or fictitious?

Alice: Is that you, Jonathan Frakes?

[Intro jingle]

Anja: Hi, I'm not Jonathan Frakes, I'm Anja.

Alice: I'm not Jonathan Frakes either. Sorry That's what I'm Alice for. And you hear aweb, the Firefox podcast. Here we deal with the topics that move the Internet. Because: The Internet is not just online. It has become part of our everyday world, with all its advantages and disadvantages. A boundary between online and offline? Not available any more! That is why we find it particularly important to be up to date. Knowing what's going on online so that we can make the right decisions online and offline.

Anja: It's getting dark: We dare to go into the darknet. Somehow everyone thinks they know what the Darknet actually is: This is where all the cyber criminals live. It's no wonder that this idea is spreading in people's minds. Even in the “crime scene”, the bad guys can now easily get weapons, drugs and co. From the Darknet. And the little story you just heard? This is the real story behind the Netflix series How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast). Yes, the drug lord in the nursery really existed. And so the Darknet is finally convicted as a haven of crime! Or?

Alice: That's exactly what we want to find out in this episode. There is a lot of talk and speculation about the Darknet, but very few have even looked around there themselves. Hardly anyone knows what is really going on. Until recently, this also applied to Lisa. She is a student and fan of the series “How To Sell Drugs Online (Fast)”. But she has never been on the darknet herself. So we forced Lisa, uh, asked her to sit down at her laptop and see if she could find her way into the dark network.

Lisa: Okay, I'll go into Google first.

And now just very stupid: How do you even get in there now? … Ah okay. ‘How to Access the Dark Web’.

Okay, now I'll go on a link on it - ‘Deep Web Links: How to get into the Dark Web’. Deep web? Is it the same Is that something like that?

These are all just such articles, right? … Wikipedia… Ah, wait, ‘sign in’? ...

There's nowhere a link to where you can go, right? ... Oh, do you have to download something first?

Okay, so here in the text it says somehow that I need a weird Tor web browser. But somehow everything is completely complicated again and… no, actually I don't want to do that.

But I probably have to download it anyway to get anywhere near this dark web. Then I'll do it now. I hope that it works.

Alice: To take a look at the Darknet is totally legal for now. There is nothing forbidden about it. But you should be aware that dark corners can always attract dark figures. Unfortunately, this applies both online and offline. A trip to the Darknet is something else than a harmless walk - we don't want to gloss over anything here.

Alice: Such an excursion is not that easy, as Lisa discovered in her self-experiment. Why isn't there an app for that? One or the other might ask. There's really an app for everything, right? Stefan Mey can answer these and similar questions. He is a journalist and author of the book, "Darknet: Guns, Drugs, Whistleblowers". We talked to him about his research and asked how he would explain the darknet.

Stefan Mey: I would say that the Darknet is a digital network that shields itself from the rest of the big Internet with technical means, and it is about creating anonymity for everyone involved - for users and also for content providers.

According to the Wikipedia article, there are 11 different darknet technologies. But as always in the digital world, one provider prevails, and that is the Darknet based on Tor. This is actually the Darknet, which is always meant when people talk about this dark network.

Anja: Right. In many people's minds, the Tor network and the Darknet have long been inextricably linked. And somehow that's right: The Tor Browser is based on Firefox and has become something like the key to the Darknet. With Tor, the network can be traveled undetected.

It's actually very easy to do. Let's say you want to visit a website. If you now enter the web address in your browser, it will send a direct request to the desired page. This request is visible and traceable to third parties. So they can track your movements on the net. We call this tracking. If you've been listening to this podcast for a while, you've heard the term before.

Tor simply misleads such trackers. Every request that you make via the Tor browser goes over three corners and is repackaged there each time, so that in the end it is no longer possible for outsiders to understand who you are and where you want to go.

Alice: Of course there are always people who take advantage of the protection of anonymity. This is no different on the Darknet than anywhere else. But is it really a hoard of criminals and nuts? Stefan Mey did some research.

Stefan Mey: So, there are two studies [...] that quasi crawled the darknet and automatically evaluated the darknet pages, and they both came to the conclusion: About half of the things are illegal, the other half is not.

I think drug trafficking on the Darknet has already ... Well, that's still tiny compared to offline drug trafficking, but it has already developed a strong dynamic. Child pornography, I'm afraid, is also relatively large, because it is, so to speak, a place where people gather, where they can have their forums and exchange pictures. And this political use is still very much in its infancy. There are mailboxes in the darknet of the really big media - New York Times, Washington Post, Süddeutsche, Guardian - but who is a whistleblower anyway? That’s a very small proportion.

During my research I had hoped that I might find such a huge landscape of opposition blogs from dictatorships on the Darknet. I didn't find that. The Tor browser is definitely used to circumvent censorship, but unfortunately this has its limits.

Actually, you can bypass censorship wonderfully with Tor, because when I go across the three corners, my Internet provider doesn't know what I'm actually doing and cannot block it either.

The stronger the censorship efforts are, the more sophisticated the tricks are.

Both sides somehow have their heads in front, but unfortunately the Darknet is not yet completely censorship-resistant.

Alice: Completely censorship-resistant - probably not. In return, the Darknet offers whistleblowers - people with sensitive information - an opportunity to anonymously share their knowledge with journalists. As Stefan Mey said, many large media companies today use the SecureDrop web platform to offer such sources a guaranteed secure, anonymous contact point. Certainly, giant stories don't flutter into these digital mailboxes every day - what comes in is often highly explosive. Whistleblowers run a high personal risk when they pass on secret information and make it public. Communication over the Darknet helps to minimize this risk.

Alice: Our darknet tester Lisa is still a long way from discovering such platforms. She has now reluctantly installed the Tor Browser - but the path to the Darknet remains rocky.

Lisa: So, I've now landed on this page and it says: ‘Welcome to Tor Browser! You are now free to browse the internet anonymously ’.

Okaaay ... So there’s no search engine here. So if I want to go somewhere anonymously, I first have to know the address on the Darknet beforehand, where I want to go. And here somehow it also says that you have to check the source for each address, because otherwise it could be fake, which is kind of weird.

Hm. Okay, that seems a bit too complicated and cumbersome to me. But it probably has to be like that too, huh? […] It is definitely extremely trustworthy. Not.

So, I'm on Reddit right now, and Reddit already has some, I'll tell you, exciting offers. Here you can supposedly order counterfeit money, or also wrong papers, or of course drugs. There's even a screenshot here. Fully practical actually. That looks like Amazon.

Should I try that? ... Is that illegal then? ... Yes, no, I think I'd better leave that.

Anja: There is no dark search engine for the Darknet. To find your way around there, you have to know where you want to go. But there are now numerous link lists on the so-called Clear Web that refer to various pages in the Darknet. Lisa also came across such a link list. In fact, there are often links to criminal offers here. But is that fake or serious? It is difficult to judge from the outside, and in the worst case, even trying to find out can be a criminal offense.

Alice: Nevertheless, many of us itches in our fingers when we stumble across such a link. Why actually? What is it that fascinates us about the dark side of the web? How did the Darknet manage to gain a permanent place in our heads and our pop culture within a few years? Stefan Mey has an idea: **

Stefan Mey: I think that comes mainly from us journalists. The darknet has different aspects, and one of them is cyber crime. This is also the aspect that the media are practically celebrating on the Darknet. And as soon as something happens somewhere, a drug dealer is caught or a marketplace is blown up where drugs were traded, then the media is full of it. The other aspects are hidden a bit.

The Darknet also has, or is, an interesting scenario to protect against surveillance. But that works a lot less for a headline or a scoop than a story about the 17-year-old dealer from Leipzig who sold kilos of drugs on his own.

Alice: When we hear stories from the Darknet, they are almost always big stories. It's about spectacular criminal cases, huge sums of money, complex investigations. Almost any of these stories would have the potential to become a hit series. Cybercriminologist Thomas Gabriel Rüdiger has been observing this trend for some time. He believes: It is the attraction of the forbidden that makes the Darknet so interesting in the first place.

Thomas Gabriel Rüdiger: It has the aura of the uncanny.

But there is actually also a criminological theory. Mike Presdee once said that. I always find them really exciting and they can be transferred there. This is the Carnival of Crime. In principle, he said roughly that people always need a place where they can perhaps pursue their dark legends or dark thoughts.

You can possibly transfer that to the Darknet, saying, 'watch out, the Darknet is such a space where people think: Well, what else I am not allowed to do on the Clear Web and so on, maybe I can do that there. These are my dark thoughts that I can live out there.

Anja: In the worst case, Thomas Gabriel Rüdiger sees where such gloomy thoughts lead in his work. In fact, he can confirm Stefan Mey's fears: In addition to drugs and weapons, child pornography is also increasingly found on the Darknet. Rüdiger even thinks: If there is one place on the Internet where you can still come across child pornography by chance - then it is the Darknet. Nevertheless, Thomas Gabriel Rüdiger also says: The extent of the problem is often exaggerated.

Thomas Gabriel Rüdiger: Personally, I am of the opinion that the density of police or security authorities is probably nowhere higher on the Internet than on the Darknet.

Of course, they always want to have spectacular missions and something crazy also want to be successful. These spectacular missions and successes are of course quite present in the Darknet, because you have concentrated serious forms of crime on a relatively small point.

And there you can just put your units in and then come to press articles with relatively big success stories.

Anja: The massive attention that the Darknet is receiving is understandable for Thomas Gabriel Rüdiger, but at least partially misplaced. He is convinced that the core of the problem is to be found in the Clear Web, which we all use every day.

Thomas Gabriel Rüdiger: In my opinion, the security authorities are much less represented on the Clear Web than on the Darknet. You can imagine it as if we were taking all of the road traffic in Germany, and then you hardly ever saw the security authorities. They are then only in the small corners, what do I know, only where drug parks are, but on the street, where people interact with each other, where children meet adults, where all the regulations work, they are not there. And I think that's a big problem.

In physical space, for example, we assume that out of 15 shoplifters, one will be reported. This is a high so-called dark field.

On the Internet - and we're now talking about the Clear Web - we are sometimes talking about such dark fields from 300 to 500 to 1 according to different studies. And that's a big topic. The fact that the probability of getting a criminal complaint on the Clear Web is so much lower than on the Darknet leads to a feeling of legal freedom. And what does that lead to? That many commit crimes in comments or postings and such - insults, sedition, sexual harassment and Co.

I call the 'broken web' feeling. That means having the feeling, look, look, a lot of people can post what they want and insult and send dick pics [...] or look for children - nothing happens. And that leads to his lowering of inhibitions and that leads to a general feeling of legal freedom on the Internet.

Alice: Does the piping on the clear web contribute to crime in the darknet? Possible. According to the experts, one thing is certain: half of what is offered on the Darknet is illegal. That's a lot. Among them are certainly various fakes, but also serious crimes. That does not mean that we as net citizens have to be afraid of the Darknet itself - but that we should be vigilant if we move there.

Our darknet tester Lisa felt much freer in the normal network than in the darknet, where every step was associated with effort and concerns. How did she like the trip?

Lisa: I don't know if I would normally use it that way. I somehow just don't get the point. [...] Well, if nobody here can understand what I'm doing right now - cool. But to be honest, it's not that important to me.

But I also imagined it to be somehow more spectacular. It was a nice trip, but somehow nothing more.

[Outro jingle fades in]

Anja: Today, the Darknet is primarily known for its tendency towards crime - and not without good reason, the experts confirm. In fact, we encounter even the most serious forms of crime here. The Darknet was not created to encourage such crimes. The anonymity of the Darknet can help people break free from oppression. And anonymity can also be attractive to people who do not suffer from authoritarian regimes. After all, we live in a time where one is constantly being monitored and followed out of capitalist interests.

It is really bad that under the protection of this anonymity that has become scarce, criminal acts also happen. So it is all the more important that the security authorities do everything in their power to prevent this.The fact that crimes happen in the Darknet does not mean that there is nothing else there or that nothing else is possible. Like so much in life, anonymity has different aspects. Our right to privacy is one of those aspects that we should definitely not sacrifice or even restrict.

Alice: In the Clear Web, the Internet as most people use it, it is becoming more and more difficult to maintain your own privacy and to remain anonymous. Companies are becoming more and more curious and tracking is becoming more and more extensive.

If you want to maintain your anonymity online, the Tor Browser can definitely be an option. However, there can be problems if you want to log into social networks or search engines, for example. They check where you are logging in from and can quickly classify changing location information as suspicious.

Anja: But there are also less complicated ways to protect your own privacy - and that also outside of the darknet.

In order to avoid the ever more extensive monitoring in the network, it makes sense first and foremost not to use a lot of products from a single source. Otherwise you will give the manufacturing company a 360 ° view of you and your life. It is better to decide individually what you really need and want. And: Always keep an eye out for alternatives to the usual suspects!

There are also a number of tools for everyday web surfing to protect your privacy. This includes surfing in private mode, for example. When the session ends, Firefox then deletes passwords, cookies, and other treacherous data. Enhanced Tracking Protection has recently been activated by default. Means: trackers from different companies are automatically blocked. This is how Firefox protects your movements on the Internet from prying eyes. You can decide for yourself who is allowed to track you and who is not in the settings with just a few clicks.

Actually, of course, it would be much nicer if you didn't have to make these decisions at all; if more companies just respected your privacy. You can see how this can look, for example, from Firefox's promise of privacy. All relevant links are of course, as usual, in the show notes.

Alice: And next time we ask ourselves the question: What is actually allowed to happen on the Internet? What can be said and posted where, and what not? And who discover. We're talking about content moderation. So we ask ourselves: what is allowed where on the net - and what is not? Who actually decides and on what basis? If we're good, we'll find out all of this in the next episode. That’s about the subject of content moderation. We are concerned with the people who moderate content on the Internet, with those who benefit from it, and also with those who suffer from it. Until then…

Anja / Alice: … Have a good time!