I suppose I should be expecting this by now, but there’s an enormous amount of misinformation about the deep web/dark web floating around. That’s the internet for you, right?
I bring this up because someone recently messaged me and said, “I clicked on a deep web site – am I in trouble??” (Surely I’m not the first to experience this.) So I talked to the guy for awhile, and as it turned out, the site he was referring to wasn’t a Tor site at all – it was just a site on Internet Archive: Wayback Machine, which keeps archives of old websites from the ’90s and early ’00s. One of them is this one:
Let me just get it all out there: visiting sites on there is perfectly fine; you won’t get in any trouble. Some of the sites may be creepy, but they are in no way related to the dark web. For those who don’t know anything about either the terms “deep web” or “dark web,” let me try to help out.
According to Wikipedia:
The deep web, invisible web, or hidden web are parts of the World Wide Web whose contents are not indexed by standard search engines for any reason. The opposite term to the deep web is the surface web. The deep web includes many very common uses such as web mail, online banking, but also paid for services with a paywall such as video on demand, and many more.
And as for the term “dark web”:
The dark web is the World Wide Web content that exists on darknets, overlay networks which use the public internet but which require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. The dark web forms a small part of the deep web, the part of the Web not indexed by search engines, although sometimes the term “deep web” is mistakenly used to refer specifically to the dark web.
Confused still? This is why I consistently say “dark web” when I’m referring to sites on Tor, I2P, Freenet, etc. The word “dark” doesn’t refer to the fact that it’s disturbing content, but the fact that it’s hidden or encrypted. The opposite term to the dark web is “clearnet” (the sites which don’t require any special configurations to access).
Granted, sites like The Hidden Wiki show only a small sample of Tor links (most of which are scams, by the way!). They are a part of the dark web, though (regardless of their content).
If you’re looking for a site that offers a lot more links (once you’re connected to Tor), then go to Harry71’s Onion Spider. I’m sure there are scams on here, but the site is at least updated daily, and has a lot of different links.
What people may be looking for is more secretive or disturbing content, which may or may not exist. Trust me – you aren’t going to find the secret to immortality on the dark web. If that sort of thing can’t be found on the clearnet, it won’t be found on the dark web either!
And as for the “deep web horror stories” on YouTube, most (if not all) of them are bullshit. How do I know this? Because the technical details are wrong. Many of them talk about live-streaming video over Tor, which is near-impossible. Nonetheless, I still find them entertaining.
I’ll tell you what, though – I have noticed that there are sites not listed in any of the link repositories or wikis, which sometimes have darker content, or are very exclusive sites (e.g. a members-only hacking forum that requires a referral from existing members). I’m not saying this to make your imagination run wild, but it’s something I have come across.
Beyond that, I’d say that the only sure way to learn how to discern fake sites from real ones, and myths from facts, is to visit the dark web yourself, and learn the ropes. There’s only so much information you can get from blogs and articles. The downside is that you may get screwed over in the process. A good rule of thumb is: if it looks sketchy, it probably is!
If you are looking for a good, factual FAQ, then check this out on Reddit: READ ME, NOOBS! – The “Short” FAQ
Anyhow, have fun exploring the dark web…and don’t get scammed.