Red Room Research for the BBC

I have an interview with the BBC this week for a documentary they’re doing on the dark web, specifically on the topic of red rooms, and have been researching in preparation for it. Having been on the “dark web” for roughly five years or so, I have a reasonably good idea of whether or not they exist – that is, going by the definition of “website where you can pay money to watch someone be tortured or killed.”

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Yesterday, I went onto Tor and attempted to stream some videos live on the YouTube front end Invidious (which has been mentioned in prior posts). Invidious has both clearnet and onion links, and like PeerTube, it has a number of different instances. Pre-recorded videos seemed to play normally, and while the live streams do work, they constantly buffer and are rather slow, which has mirrored my experience in previous attempts. The only difference is that the Tor network is slightly faster than it used to be.

There’s a similar video sharing site called Dark.video, which also has Tor mirrors (warning: NSFW content!). The videos seem to play normally, albeit not when the Tor security settings are on “Safest,” in which things like video are disabled. Coincidentally, this site, like the ones mentioned on the “gore” posts, has some very disturbing videos on it. The point is that it is possible to play videos, and even sometimes live streams, over Tor, but they don’t function as well as they do on the clearnet. The other caveat to this is that the more features you enable on Tor, the less likely it is that you’ll remain anonymous, and if someone were attempting to repeatedly murder others on film for profit, there’s a greater chance that they would somehow break their anonymity in the process.

Even so, there have been cases like the one mentioned in What Was the Nth Room? (Disturbing Content, NSFW), in which abuse content was live streamed, albeit not over Tor. In that case, the videos were shown over Telegram, which is end-to-end encrypted, but doesn’t use onion routing, which is the primary way in which Tor provides anonymity. There have been other live streamed murders and suicides on sites as public as Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok, of all places, contrary to what people might expect! The main difference with doing so on the clearnet, especially on a site as popular as YouTube, is that it presents a greater chance of the perpetrator getting caught. See Russia’s epidemic of live-streamed tragedies continues for several examples.

Red Room Research for the BBC Red Room Research for the BBC png base64 iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAAAEAAAABAQMAAAAl21bKAAAAA1BMVEUAAP KeNJXAAAAAXRSTlMAQObYZgAAAAlwSFlzAAAOxAAADsQBlSsOGwAAAApJREFUCNdjYAAAAAIAAeIhvDMAAAAASUVORK5CYII

Nonetheless, despite the fact that there have been live streamed murders and suicides, the “red rooms” that I’ve mentioned on Tor are definitely scams. They look amateurish and, in fact, are easy to set up, hence why you might find dozens of mirrors of the same site. It is possible to stream video over some of the other anonymity networks, like Freenet, I2P, and ZeroNet, however.

Many cite the case of Peter Scully as an example of a red room, and while it comes pretty close, this gets into the semantics of how you define the term “red room.” Scully was part of a website called Hurt2TheCore, run by Australian Matthew David Graham (a.k.a. Lux), who was arrested in 2015, and also produced the notorious “Daisy’s Destruction” videos. He is currently serving a life sentence.

Have you ever come across something like this in a place other than Tor, such as on the clearnet or on I2P? Replies are welcome, as usual. If there are some other technical considerations that would make this possible, it would be interesting to hear them.

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