Last year there was a lot of buzz surrounding “the Deep Web” due to a viral Gawker article exposing the Silk Road, an anonymous drug market place. This was shortly after Inception came out so people were already hyped about “going deeper” into things. The existence of such an accessible black market outraged parents, politicians, and local news syndicates, but could anyone actually do anything to stop it? In order to understand the impact of this viral event it’s worth it to do a bit of spelunking, post-factum.
To clear up some misconceptions, the Deep Web is hundreds of times larger than the “surface net” we all know and love, and is growing at a faster rate. In fact, most of the internet is composed of deep web matter. Not even Google itself has the capacity to crawl it, so its content exists in the most remote reaches of the internet. It’s everything from innocuous web pages that don’t index to government data like the stuff Wikileaks finds. The juicy parts live on hidden anonymity networks like freenet and tor.
My first encounter with tor was freshman year of college. I used it to bypass annoying network logins and to torrent in my dorm without IT getting on my case. It’s used in countries like China to view censored media without risk of execution. More famously, it serves as a data haven for taboo content and nefarious e-commerce. The system has known vulnerabilities so it’s not guaranteed that you won’t get in trouble if you try to do those things. And you can still find virtually any drug you want on the Silk Road. The bitcoin itself is significantly less volatile compared to its exchange rate in the months following the media frenzy. I got a quote of $140 for an ounce of AK47, $95 for a gram of meth, and $60 for a gram of MDMA at 86% purity.