The Internet is a very popular tool to everyone in the world. The Internet has provided and improved modern people’s lives significantly, such as education, work, entertainment, and shopping. One of the most popular search tools on the Internet is Google. People can search many things on Google. However, that is not all on the Internet. Many websites are still hidden that Google will not show to Internet users. Most of those hidden websites are being restricted to access by the government or Internet providers. Why do those institutions want to keep users away from those websites? The main answer is to control people from experiencing hyper-negative contents on the Internet. This answer has made many people concern about their right and privacy while using the Internet. They want fewer authorities’ intervention. Even with strong restrictions, Internet users are still able to access to those hidden websites by specific web browsers. With the ability of those special browsers, people will get into a deeper world of the Internet. This Internet environment is called “deep web” or “dark web.” The government knows it can’t stop people from surfing into the deep web because this is a big social problematic issue. However, the government can track down and protect their people from the deep web. Therefore, what are the purposes that people want to use the deep web and how does the government surveil deep web users? These questions will help readers to understand about the deep web and government surveillance toward the deep web environment.
The Definition of Deep Web
According to Vilic (2017) deep web or dark web is “is a part of the Internet which is also not accessible to regular browsing tools or everyday browsing methods, but it requires special skills or data to connect the various illegal activities in cyberspace.” Thus, deep web is not a conventional cyberspace that regular Internet search tools (Google, Bing, and others) can’t show to web surfers. Therefore, most of the websites that people see on Google are the floating surface of the Internet and people can freely access it. Those floated websites are already controlled and revised by the government and Internet providers. The deep web is a deeper layer web environment, and it may have no definite controllers. This means the deep web is predominantly running by many anonymous individuals, which could include bad people. However, there are some floating deep webs that can be found on the regular Internet but need a password. For instance, social media platforms (Facebooks, Twitter, and others) and emails are considered as floating deep web. Floating deep web is not being restricted by the government because most of it is being controlled by a company; so the company will deal over the content. Therefore, how many deep web’s websites that are still operating on the Internet? According to a research article conduct by Kolias, Anagnostopoulos, and Zeadally by data-crawling on the Internet to look for the deep web. The result is shocking; they “discover almost 5000 hidden web forms from a set of 25,000” websites (Kolias, Anagnostopoulos, and Zeadaly, 2017). This is a huge number that made the government concerns about this issue.
The Content on Deep Web
One of the most controversial things that people often heard about the deep web is the bad content, which includes a lot of offensive and disturbing activities. The most popular activity that people often witness on deep web is trading merchandise and services. Most of the merchandise that is being traded on the deep web is not like everyday products that people often buy and sell. Those products are dangerous and scandalous. The deep web commodities usually are drugs, guns, child pornography, illegal documents, stolen IDs, and many harmful products (Jardine, 2018). The services on the deep web also sound very disgusting, such as sex trafficking, hiring hitmen, kidnapping, hacking, cyberterrorism, and other illegal activities (Jardine, 2018). Therefore, the government has always prevented its citizens from getting into those activities, because it could threaten their citizens’ lives and properties. In addition, those commodities and services are not allowed to be distributed and sold in an open market that ordinary people often participate in. These activities are involved with the hand of the media. Due to individuals or anonymous companies used the deep web to reach to their customers. According to Croteau and Hoynes (2006), “rather than simply supplying consumer goods in a free market context, media in a democratic society are expected to serve the public interest.” This assumption has shown a great argument about how the modern media is about. The media now is just about selling and profiting companies, and it tends to ignore all the other purposes of promoting public interest (healthcare, welfare, and others). Therefore, the deep web is not an exception. It is also a media selling and performing illegal activities and commodities.
Deep Web Attraction
Since everybody knows about the illegal things on the deep web, but why does the deep web still operate freely on the Internet? The main problem with this issue is deep web has no absolute control, which will make the government struggle to shut down all the deep web sites. Besides that, the deep web is a just like regular Internet. They have many users, and it will take a lot of time and effort for the government to track down all the activities. Moreover, people love using the deep web because deep web does not record users net history and it can somewhat hide their IP address. However, on the regular Internet platform, many users’ search history is being recorded and can be traced down by commercial companies and authority through their IP. Companies will target their audiences via their search history that might include cookies, sub URL, and EULA agreement to reach their products to the users. This makes people feel threatened for their privacy that is leaked to the public. Thus, people see this case as “surveillance capitalism.” Surveillance capitalism is “focused on data extraction rather than the production of new goods.” (Couldry, 2016) To be specific, it means companies or the government try to exploit or monitor media users through their activities primarily on the Internet to advertise their products and influence ideas. Moreover, some opinions and thoughts are not allowed to be freely expressed in the standard Internet environment because of the sensitivity. Therefore, those opinions need a place to communicate without being controlled and exterminated by the government. For instance, those thoughts are about conspiracy theories, racist posts and assassinate plots. Hence, with all those reasons above, the deep web can be viewed as a place for people to freely express and sell stuff that is considered as offensive by the society. Dominantly, people use the deep web to protect their privacy from the exploitation of companies and the government.
The Legality of Deep Web
The deep web seems to be wrong due to the people using it. However, not all activities on the deep web are horrific. The deep web still exists because of the right of freedom of speech which the government cannot repeal it. Also, the freedom of speech is a universal worldwide right that most countries want their citizen to observe. However, some governments persecute people for having different political thoughts, experiencing a different sexual feeling, practicing different religions, and inheriting different cultures. Therefore, the deep web is an ideal place for those people to share their opinions freely. Eric Jardine stated, “Other users in liberal democracies might want to use anonymity-granting technologies to cover up for socially unacceptable behavior, particularly if those activities crossed heteronormative lines. Others might care about online privacy and could use systems like Tor [a special deep web browser] because they no longer trust that the Internet is a private place in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations.” (Jardine, 2016) Therefore, we can see the deep web is also a place for people who are cast out by society to have a voice to empower themselves. However, some bad opportunists use the deep web for spreading hatred, racist ideologies and radical jingoism, which they are not acceptable by the government and society. Not only the deep web supports the freedom of speech, but it also helps other people to earn money in most newer ways, that is called crypto-mining. Crypto-mining is still considered unconventional and suspicious by the government, but to a civilian viewpoint, it is a faster way to change lives. One of the most popular cryptocurrencies is Bitcoin. “Accordingly, Bitcoin is a virtual currency with equivalent value in real currency but no legal tender status, at least in most places.” (Piazza, 2017) Bitcoin has been well-known in a recent couple of years for helping people earning a great amount of money within a short time. Also, Bitcoin’s legal status in the US currently right now is permissive, but the government is trying to regulate it due to the concern of banks’ money keeping ability and “real currency” supplement (Piazza, 2016). The disadvantage of Bitcoin is it is so accessible to be used on the deep web for trading illegal things and services. This has made the authority always criminalize Bitcoin.
Major Serious Issues Of Deep Web
As the drug dealing activities increase in a big rate on the deep web, it has created a detrimental effect on the healthcare sector, especially counterfeit medications and bad public health. One of the most well-known drug selling website on the deep web is the Silk Road. Silk Road “has been estimated to have generated about $500 000 per day of income; top vendors on the site are thought to have made a net profit of over $1 million annually.” (Pergolizzi, LeQuang, Taylor, & Raffa, 2017). The medicines are provided by this website are varied. It includes marijuana, heroin and even regular medicines. The makers of those medicines are ranged from China to the US, and they send the medicines to their clients by using FedEx, United Parcel Service, and the United States Postal Service. Also, they are very good at tricking those delivery services to send their medicine worldwide (Pergolizzi, LeQuang, Taylor, & Raffa, 2017). Four researchers Pergolizzi, LeQuang, Taylor, and Raffa also found out that most of those medicines are fake because they have tested in their labs. They claimed that the effect of those fake medicines is very harmful to the consumers because of the highly toxic or cheap chemicals in the medicines. According to Pergolizzi, LeQuang, Taylor, and Raffa (2017), “Of the total of 219 samples that were analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, the majority (91.3%) contained the drugs as advertised, but with significantly varying levels of purity.” Therefore, those medicine scammers are just only thinking of profiting themselves, and they don’t give any concern to consumers’ health. The second serious problem that deep web is occurring now is the child pornography. Child pornography is sexual intercourse between an adult with a child. It could be in the form of photos, videos, and other different materials. This is a very immoral act that most societies do not accept it to happen. On the deep web environment, child pornography is prevalent for pedophiles to download and file share with others. Those child pornographers mainly store their child porn products through “cloud systems,” which are modern day Internet online file storages (O’Brien, 2014). Also, they use peer to peer network to modify their porn products into torrent form so that they can freely share and download those child pornographies at any time (O’Brien, 2014). This issue has made the government always try to intervene to stop the spreading of child pornography. Lastly, cyberterrorism is a big threat to global security. Those terrorists use the deep web as a hideout from government surveillance. Cyberterrorism is “a modern form of terrorism, which connects the virtual space and terrorist activity, by manipulating even more efficient methods of psychological warfare” (Vilic, 2017). Most of those cyber terrorist activities are organized worldwide hacking on airports and national security networks, spreading hate speeches, posting execution videos, recruiting new members and many other terrifying acts.
Government Surveillance On Deep Web
The deep web has always been a big concern to the government in monitoring their citizens from experiencing harmful contents. As a result of these dangers, the authorities have to keep surveillance on internet use to protect citizens who may be impacted by the deep web. Mostly the government will let the law enforcement forces (mainly police departments, FBI, and TSA) deal with this matter. These law enforcement forces have a special IT group, or cybersecurity officer who will mostly look over all the activities on the Internet. Since the deep web is vast and is run by many anonymous, it will take a longer time for law enforcement to investigate. One of the easiest ways to track down all the illegal things on the deep web is to go undercover. These cybersecurity officers will pretend to be clients or regular web surfers to investigate the content of those websites (Ghappour, 2017). Moreover, law enforcement prioritizes looking for child pornography, drug dealing, and terrorism, because these issues are seriously harmful to the public that could threaten their lives. They also look for currency counterfeit, hitmen service, and contraband (Ghappour, 2017). In order to bring down those unlawful activities, officers might try to create many traps and scenarios to lure out the targets and arrest them in real life. The worst way and if necessary to handle these situations is hacking, which is an easy task for the cyber IT officers (Ghappour,2017). With the hacking, the officers can obtain and find the IP address of the deep web users, and they can capture him/her in real life. With those investigative methods, some deep web users are afraid of being get caught. Some others argue that the government violates their privacy right on the Internet. If there is such no security on the deep web, there will be more criminals appear on the deep web more often. Thus, it is necessary for law enforcement to look after the deep web, but the authority should also introduce some stricter regulations on the deep web to make it safer for people.
In this modern-techno era, people use the Internet more often for many purposes. However, they are always being surveilled by the government and companies. This is a main public discourse of using the Internet in the modern day. People want to have more privacy, with less intervention from institutions knowing their information on the Internet (search history, websites they have visited, social media, etc.). Moreover, the deep web is not an exception. The deep web is thought to be both positive and negative. However, the negative contents are mostly including on the deep web. The government knows how to deal with this matter, and nothing can stop them from monitoring their citizens from surfing the Internet. Therefore, there is no guarantee of privacy for Internet users, they are always being controlled by big powers.
- Couldry, N. (2016, September 22). The Price Of Connection: ‘Surveillance Capitalism.’ The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/the-price-of-connection-surveillance-capitalism-64124
- Croteau, D., & Hoynes, William. (2006). The Business Of Media: Corporate Media And The Public Interest (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Pine Forge Press.
- Ghappour, A. (2017). Searching Places Unknown: Law Enforcement Jurisdiction On The Dark Web. Stanford Law Review, 69(4), 1075-1136.
- Jardine, E. (2018). Tor, what is it good for? Political Repression And The Use Of Online Anonymity-Granting Technologies. New Media & Society, 20(2), 435-453. doi:10.1177/1461444816639976
- Kolias, V., Anagnostopolos, I., & Zeadally, S. (2018). Structural Analysis And Classification Of Search Interfaces For The Deep Web. Computer Journal, 61(3), 386-398. doi:10.1093/comjnl/bxx098
- O’Brien, M. (2014). The Internet, Child Pornography And Cloud Computing: The Dark Side of The Web?. Information & Communications Technology Law, 23(3), 238-255. doi:10.1080/13600834.2014.970376
- Pergolizzi, J. V., LeQuang, J. A., Taylor, R., & Raffa, R. B. (2017). The ‘Darknet’: The New Street For Street Drugs. Journal of Clinical Pharmacy & Therapeutics, 42(6), 790-792. doi:10.1111/jcpt.12628
- Piazza, F. (2017). Bitcoin In The Dark Web: A Shadow Over Banking Secrecy And A Call For Global Response. Southern California Interdisciplinary Law Journal, 26(3), 521-546.
- Vilic, V. M. (2017). Dark Web, Cyber Terrorism And Cyber Warfare: Dark Side Of The Cyberspace. Balkan Social Science Review, 10(10), 7-24.