Far Beyond Crime-Ridden Depravity, Darknets Are Key Strongholds of Freedom of Expression Online
Roderick S. Graham , 1 Feb 17
       

via shutterstock.com

The internet is much more than just the publicly available, Google-able web services most online users frequent – and that’s good for free expression. Companies frequently create private networks to enable employees to use secure corporate servers, for example. And free software allows individuals to create what are called “peer-to-peer” networks, connecting directly from one machine to another.

Unable to be indexed by current search engines, and therefore less visible to the general public, subnetworks like these are often called “darknets,” or collective as the singular “darknet.” These networks typically use software, such as Tor, that anonymizes the machines connecting to them, and encrypts the data traveling through their connections.

Some of what’s on the darknet is alarming. A 2015 story from Fox News reads:


    “Perusing the darknet offers a jarring jaunt through jaw-dropping depravity: Galleries of child pornography, videos of humans having sex with animals, offers for sale of illegal drugs, weapons, stolen credit card numbers and fake identifications for sale. Even human organs reportedly from Chinese execution victims are up for sale on the darknet.”


But that’s not the whole story – nor the whole content and context of the darknet. Portraying the darknet as primarily, or even solely, for criminals ignores the societal forces that push people toward these anonymous networks. Our research into the content and activity of one major darknet, called Freenet, indicates that darknets should be understood not as a crime-ridden “Wild West,” but rather as “wilderness,” spaces that by design are meant to remain unsullied by the civilizing institutions – law enforcement, governments and corporations – that have come to dominate the internet.

There is definitely illegal activity on the darknet, as there is on the open internet. However, many of the people using the darknet have a diverse range of motives and activities, linked by a common desire to reclaim what they see as major benefits of technology: privacy and free speech.

Describing Freenet

Our research explored Freenet, an anonymous peer-to-peer network accessed via a freely downloadable application. In this type of network, there are no centralized servers storing information or transferring data. Rather, each computer that joins the network takes on some of the tasks of sharing information.

When a user installs Freenet, her computer establishes a connection to a small group of existing Freenet users. Each of these is connected in turn to other Freenet users’ computers. Through these connections, the entire contents of the network are available to any user. This design allows Freenet to be decentralized, anonymous and resistant to surveillance and censorship.

Freenet’s software requires users to donate a portion of their local hard drive space to store Freenet material. That information is automatically encrypted, so the computer’s owner does not know what files are stored or the contents of those files. Files shared on the network are stored on numerous computers, ensuring they will be accessible even if some people turn off their machines.

Sign in to view full article

       
When Things Go Wrong In An Automated World, Would We Still Know What To Do?
We live in a world that is both increasingly complex and automated. So just as we are having to deal ...
Peter Fisher
Mon, 27 Mar 17
How Hot-Deskers are Made to Feel Like the Homeless People of the Office World
If you work in an open-plan, hot-desking environment, you have probably at some point found yourself trudging through the office, ...
Alison Hirst
Thu, 16 Feb 17
Fighting Online Trolls With Bots
The wonder of internet connectivity can turn into a horror show if the people who use online platforms decide that ...
Saiph Savage
Fri, 13 Jan 17
Karl Marx, the Racist
It’s been nearly 100 years since Karl Marx’s ideas triggered the world’s first communist revolution in Russia on March 8, ...
Jack Phillips
Sat, 11 Feb 17
Every Picture Tells A Story, But Visualisation Can Tell The Right One
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Quang Vinh Nguyen
Thu, 4 May 17
At Epoch Times, We Care :o)
An Epoch Times Survey
An Epoch Times Survey
Sports Elements
BUCHERER
Sports Elements