Recently Anonymous launched OpDarknet, basically what happened was someone in the collective noticed a large amount of CP in Onionland, and contacting the main hosting provider (Freedom Hosting) proved fruitless in removing the content so they took it down themselves.
Now after hearing about the strange concept of Onionland, I began to do some research. Onionland is the community inhabiting what is known as a darknet, which prevents services or clients from being identified through technical means (not exactly true in any case, but it makes it a lot harder), the technology providing the anonymity layer is TOR. TOR isn’t the only Darknet, Freenet and I2P also exist to serve this case, however Onionland does seem to be the most active (having said that, its still quite dead compared to the surface web).
Being interested in information retrieval, I was tempted by the amount of information Onionland could potentially provide. Of course my fatal flaw was assuming Onionland made up a sizeable portion of the deep web, which it absolutely does not, in fact from what I saw there was very little information that couldn’t be found on the surface web. Having said that there was the occasional gem such as a leaked document here or there, but all in all these were few and far between, there is no real information to be found down there.
All sites situated in Onionland have the .onion TLD, which won’t work unless you are routing through the TOR network. Going into the activism, political and revolutionary link list, we are 1 click away from manuals that attempt to describe how to make weapons and military training manuals. What puzzles me is why a lot of these sites look like they were written in the 90’s:
It’s pretty clear that not all the people who use TOR are in their right mind. Another site is basically a list of names, addresses and offices of people operating in government or law enforcement in Denmark and Germany which the author believed were facists:
As can be expected, TOR attracts extremists from both ends of the spectrum, both fascists and socialists of the hardest core can be found here. But it’s not all about opinionated political banter, with TOR’s anonymity cloak a blackmarket has formed that trades in all kinds of goods unavailable legally in most Western countries. Drugs are probably the most commonly traded, with the Silk Road site being claimed the Amazon.com of illegal drugs, however there are also Assassination services, money laundering services, firearms markets, hacking markets, dangerous chemicals, forgeries, gambling and thieves for hire. It’s questionable how many of these services are actually legit, and I doubt anyone’s ever ordered a hit in Onionland but never the less the sites exist.
In order to facilitate these transactions, people anonymously transfer BitCoins, the value of these coins fluctuate wildly, sometimes hitting $30 USD per 1 bit coin to less than 1 USD.
Big themes in Onionland seem to be the taboo, if society frowns upon it you will most likely find it on this network. From what I could gather, Onionland was once well populated but now remains a desert of its former self (with the only site gaining any traction being Silk Road), apparently I was years too late to the party. Talk.masked was the only site that I found with a decent following (a couple of posts every hour), and after reading it you begin to notice that the kind of guys inhabiting this network are very hardcore into freedom of speech, they will even defend pedophilia in order to preserve it. On the Onion Forums 2.0 people complained that they took down CP. Sites like RespiraTOR simply fuel the fires of crazy when you read a couple of the vents posted there.
I was largely disappointed with Onionland, I was looking for treasure troves of information but instead I just found a place where people too hardcore for 4chan go. It really goes to show what kind of anarchy total anonymity actually grants you.