One of my readers was asking if I could talk more about personal experiences I’d had on the various darknets discussed here. I had done this more when I first started the blog, but shifted away from it recently.
I had first heard about the “dark web” via YouTube, specifically on a video of A Serbian Film, which is considered to be a very disturbing movie in its own right. One of the comments said, “You think this is disturbing? This is nothing compared to what’s on the dark web.” Knowing nothing about the subject at the time, I googled it, and one of the articles that came up was Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. Dark Web, from BrightPlanet. This article explained what Tor was, and soon after, I found out about the Tor Browser, which I downloaded next.
When starting to use the browser, however, I didn’t initially know how to find “dark web sites” (i.e. onion sites), and that was the next thing that I searched for. In some of the search results, several of the Hidden Wiki clones came up, and that was how I got started exploring Tor. It was somewhat similar to this mirror site at HiddenWiki.com:
Many of the first sites that I clicked on weren’t even online, and that’s still true to this day for those who are just exploring. Eventually, I recall stumbling upon a site called the Cruel Onions Forum, which at the time, I didn’t realize was dedicated to animal abuse. For the record, I love animals, particularly dogs and cats, so this is something I vehemently oppose. Child abuse and animal abuse are two things that I can’t stand.
I didn’t spend long on this site for obvious reasons, but there was one other thread that stood out to me. Someone on there said “Hi! I’m a 14-year-old girl. Who wants to rape me and abuse me and keep me as their slave?” Someone else responded: “Are you serious?” and she replied, “Totally.” The person who responded then gave out their contact information. I have no idea if the original poster was serious or not.
Another site I remember finding on the Hidden Wiki was called Vault of Sex and Dead, which contained images of gore and necrophilia (the latter is something else I’m not into). It was a pay site, and it’s quite possible that it was a scam of some sort, but at the time, it disturbed me a bit. Obviously, I’ve since started the “Needs More Gore” series here, so I’ve become desensitized over time.
Strangely enough, even these “shock” experiences didn’t keep me away, as you can see. Rather, I learned to navigate around Tor well enough that I could steer clear of sites I didn’t want to visit, and only searched for things that interested me, like hacking, coding, etc. One of the sites that I also joined early on was called The Dark Lair, a sort of social network/forum that involved things like coding and puzzles. I’d mentioned this site on The Dark Lair: My Intro to the Dark Web.
As the years progressed, I became more interested in the technical, privacy, and whistleblowing aspects of Tor than the “shock” aspects, and that’s where I stand today, even though I still talk about things like red rooms on occasion. Most of the time, I haven’t seen very much that falls into that category.
Today, I like to help others use Tor and other anonymity networks, which I plan on discussing more in future posts! Some of you have also asked about the possibility of things like red rooms existing on other networks besides Tor, or on the clearnet. I’ve yet to find a real one, and it may not happen, but you never know. What else would you like to see?