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The Dark Net: Inside the Digital Underworld Paperback – May 10, 2016
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An NPR Best Book of 2015
Included in The Washington Post's Notable Nonfiction of 2015
“Bartlett combines an insider’s expertise with a neophyte’s tale of discovery. Rather than measure the pros and cons of the Web, he maps its frontiers without judgment. The result is a lucid inquiry into the relationship between technology and freedom that’s also a captivating beach book."
A Best Summer Books pick by Kevin Nguyen, NPR's "On Point"
“A welcome deep dive into the anonymous Internet."
—Flavorwire, The 15 Best Nonfiction Books of the Year So Far
“One of the truly indispensable works of nonfiction released in 2015."
—Jonathon Sturgeon, Flavorwire
“It is Bartlett’s plentiful and fascinating interviews with the denizens of the dark net that make his book so compelling... Quite worrying, a bit disgusting, highly voyeuristic, and occasionally very funny: this is the nature of both the dark net and The Dark Net."
—Barnes & Noble Review
“Bartlett is the ideal guide: capable and ever-ready to ferry the reader to the dark side of the Internet."
—Flavorwire, 10 Must-Read Books for June
“Fascinating...a provocative journey through the deep web’s history, its varied guiding philosophies, and the bizarre, iconoclastic, often criminal behaviors it conceals and energizes."
“Bartlett doesn’t just tell us about the dark net; he also rips through the cloak of anonymity to let us meet some of its denizens... It’s a disturbing book, but it’s meant to be."
“A provocative excursion to the darker side of human nature set free by the anonymous and unregulated boundaries of cyberspace."
“Reveals a hidden, seedy world where people lurk behind pseudonyms and dupe others into revealing their bodies on camera to be used against them in public shaming. If you’re shocked to discover that last year approximately 20 per cent of drug users bought their stash online, you’ll find this fascinating. Bartlett is an able guide on a journey through the margins of the web.”
—Max Wallis, Independent, Books of the Year
“A judgement-free look at the mechanics of trolling and other internet bad behaviour and generates more light than heat.”
—Helen Lewis, New Statesman, Books of the Year
“A hell of an achievement . . . Buy it and read it.”
—Hugo Rifkind, The Times (London)
“Bartlett anatomises the usual bogeymen and demonstrates that they’re real. The Dark Net is, for anyone engaged with the web and the effects it is having on our culture, necessary reading . . . a flashlight in a dark, dark cellar.”
—Michael Bywater, Spectator
“A fascinating and disturbing exploration of the outer edges of the internet and the human mind.”
“A fascinating and disturbing journey through the furthest recesses of the Internet. Jamie Bartlett is an expert guide . . . he shines an invaluable light on a world that remains determinedly opaque.”
—Ian Burrell, Independent
“[A] thorough and assiduously researched account of the deviantly erotic, subversive and criminal aspects of web life.”
—Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times
“A confident and well-informed guide . . . By meeting the people behind the online activity, Bartlett humanises it.”
—Douglas Heaven, New Scientist
“The Dark Net offers smart, provoking reportage from the crooked crannies of digital culture, married to a quietly impressive analysis of how technology is amplifying both the best and the worst of us. Required reading for anyone looking to escape media hysteria and get to grips with the 21st century's most compelling, discomforting complexities.”
“A well-researched book, studded with enlightening interviews.”
—Mail on Sunday
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
JAMIE BARTLETT is the Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at the think tank Demos, where he specializes in online social movements and the impact of technology on society. Prior to his work with Demos, he was a research associate at the international humanitarian agency Islamic Relief and conducted field research in Pakistan and Bangladesh. A graduate of the London School of Economics and the University of Oxford, Bartlett writes a weekly column on technology for the Telegraph and is a frequent commentator for media outlets throughout the world. He lives in London.
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Top customer reviews
The subtitle, "Inside the Digital Underworld", also seems misleading, as most of the book is not about illegal activity. Personally, the word "underworld" also carries connotations with "inaccessibility", "obscurity", and previously unthought-of lifestyles and subcultures. Disappointingly, there was basically no form of human behaviour here that I wasn't already aware of. I'll give you a rough rundown of the subjects of each chapter from memory and let you decide for yourself:
1. A history of flaming and trolling going back to Arpanet, including the practice on 4chan's /b/ board of using the details in posters' nude self-pics to identify them.
Some information on the "cypherpunks", a crypto-anarchist group.
2. British nationalist and anti-extremist groups creating echo-chambers for themselves on Facebook and infiltrating each-other's management networks.
3. Programmers living in an anarchist commune in Barcelona working to improve Bitcoin.
Applications for the Bitcoin blockchain idea, such as Twister (decentralized P2P microblogging).
Some detail on Satoshi Nakamoto, creator of Bitcoin.
4. An unpleasant chapter on a man's descent into pedophilia, going from "teens" to "jailbait" to young girls, and only realizing the severity of his actions once the police called around to his house.
Pedophile networks, and the people working to combat them.
Some detail on the psychological effects of internet use, such as dis-association.
5. Finally, a chapter on Tor-only websites. Describes the author's successful attempt to buy a small amount of cannabis. Looks at their capacity to rapidly adapt to FBI infiltration. The author finds that they are remarkable accessible, easy-to-use, and relatively risk-free.
6. The author meets a cam girl as she puts on a show and receives tips from hundreds of viewers.
Many viewers compete to be particular cam girl's highest tippers, making friends with them and other viewers.
7. Investigates the subjects of pro-anorexia and bulimia web forums, and sites where suicidal people can receive support and advice on how to commit the act. Follows a character named Amelia made up of several sources as she is sucked into the friendly, supportive, yet toxic atmosphere of a pro-anorexia site. She is hospitalized and eventually recovers.
8 (Conclusion). Investigates trans-humanist and anarcho-primitavist proponents.
A little on the "singularity" concept.
Wraps it up by saying that the web doesn't really have depth; everything is only a few clicks away if you know where to look.
After the initial disappointment of finding that it wasn't entirely about the hidden web, I was hoping it would take more of an anthropological approach, where the aim would be to shed light on properly obscure off-shoots of human experience, e.g. otherkins, furries, conspiracy theorists, dark magicians, what have you. Instead, it reads like a series of long-form magazine articles like you might pass the time with on a plane journey.
Far too much of the material in this book was simply fleshing-out stories I was already familiar with from mainstream newspapers and websites. Reddit's Futurology section, for example, where most of the information to be found in chapter 8 is widely disseminated, is often accessible from the home page and currently has 1.25 million subscribers.
I also felt the asking price was too steep for what it is: I paid $16 for this on Kindle. I hope this review prevents others who are now in the position I was a few days ago from making the same mistake.
The focus of this book is not on the technical aspect of the dark net. It is not about bringing secrets to light. Instead, it is a commentary on the politics, sociology, human behavior, and philosophy surrounding these technologies and subcultures as well as the internet's role in allowing ideas and movements to grow and evolve (or devolve). It's well-written and thought-provoking.