Playing in the dark

Dark web serves as ominous force of internet


Allyson Smith

The dark web is often intriguing, but computer science teacher Mark Ahrens warns students against trying to access it.

Story by Stephanie Jumper, Editor-In-Chief

When finding this article, most people will turn to their preferred search engine and type in a term that interests them. They may have stumbled across this article through a few mindless Googles or Bing rabbit holes. One thing is for certain, though: no matter how many clicks and scrolls in took readers to find this story, they discovered without involvement in the mysterious world of the dark web.

People reading this article accessed it through what is commonly described as the surface web. The surface web offers the most easily accessible pieces of information on the internet. It’s where everyone finds the household website names: YouTube, FaceBook, Reddit. The surface web is often thought of as the tip of the internet iceberg. 

The deeper one explores the iceberg, however, the murkier and lesser known the information gets. 

“The dark web is where a lot of information is [that] some people may not be comfortable with,” technology teacher Mark Ahrens said. “It has this reputation of being a very ominous place, but I would argue that probably about 70% of the internet, and most of that information that’s exchanged, is probably exchanged in ways that we may not be comfortable with, but that information is exchanged nonetheless.”

It’s tales of the ominous that intrigue people’s morbid curiosity. Stories of the dark web range from drug selling to consensual cannibalism. It was websites like these that sparked senior Will Anderson’s interest, who first went on the dark web in the eighth grade. Anderson left his first encounter disappointed with his findings.

“I was curious,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t trying to do anything illegal. I was really going on there to see what kind of crazy stuff I could find, but really it was a lot more boring than I thought it would be.”

Despite the dark web’s reputation for making up a startling percentage of the internet, this is often due to people confusing it with the deep web. All the deep web means is parts of the internet that cannot be accessed through search engines. Although the dark web is more dangerous than the deep web, the dark web can be a positive tool for law enforcement.

“I know it gets a bad stigma, but there is some good that goes on down there,” Ahrens said. “If you think about it, it’s really a way to circumvent all the rules and protocols we use on a day-to-day basis. There’s a lot of illegal activity, and a lot of activity that goes on is monitored by law enforcement, government officials, things like that.”

The dark web can be accessed by far more people than crime fighters and criminals. Anderson gained access to it by downloading a program on his computer.

“It’s not as scary and crazy as people make it out to be in movies and media,” Anderson said. “It’s more of a home for obscure, weird stuff. Just weird videos. Most of it’s fake, stuff like hoaxes.”

Although plenty of videos and sites on the dark web are just people trying to trick its users, the average, less technically experienced people may not be able to tell what websites to trust.

“There are certain circumstances where you or I may go on there looking for information, but we have to keep in mind that a lot of that information we’re looking for is being tracked,” Ahrens said. “’Hackers’ are using their IP, and they can gain access to your system without you knowing. That can happen anywhere, but when you cross a threshold, you have to understand security threats one may not be completely aware of.” 

It’s possibilities like this that prompt Ahrens to warn people not internet savvy of exploring this side of the web.

“It’s going to a shady part of town and just expecting everything to be OK,” Ahrens said. “You may not know there’s illegal activity going on, but there’s opportunities you’re not aware of for people to get a hold of information they may not want you to have.”