The deep web, particularly the dark web, has a reputation for mainly being a place where people buy things they shouldn’t or otherwise trade valuable digital commodities like hacked information.
You have to keep in mind though, that the dark web is a creation of human beings and we’re nothing if not social animals. So even the faceless visitors to the dark web have a tendency to for interest groups and online communities with shared values. These aren’t just sub-cultures, but sub-sub-cultures. Many of which would be socially unacceptable on the clearnet. While anonymity is dying on the public side of the web the dark web is still a place where you can say whatever you want without compromising your identity.
Getting Social on the Dark Web
In this article, I want to highlight a few of the most interesting communities that have formed on the dark web over the years. These are just the ones that have been discovered. Doubtlessly there are even more secretive dark web communities, with memberships that number less than 100, but we’ll likely never know about them. So, what are people doing socially on the dark web? Let’s find out.
The Intel Exchange
The Intel exchange is pretty much what you’d expect based on the name. It’s a place where people come and exchange “intel” in the “intelligence” sense of the word. Valuable information in all manner of topic areas.
People share information here that you wouldn’t normally expect. A lot of it is of course just crazy and untrue. Plenty of conspiracy stuff and the like. So basically like Wikipedia, but with even less vetting.
The range of topics is impressive. Supposedly suppressed technologies get discussed in its own sub-forum. People provide insider info about current events or things related to current events.
There are also more mainstream topics such as computer hardware, software, mathematics and more. Read the Intel Exchange at your own risk, but it’s sure to be a fascinating experience.
The Flashlight Forum
Flashlight is a dark web news service, which is a bit of a rarity. Here you can read about what’s going on in the dark web world with a fair amount of professionalism. Of course, you’ll have to take it all with a pinch of salt.
The reason a news site is on this list is that there’s a chat applet where readers can discuss all sorts of things, usually the articles themselves. There used to be a forum, but the creators seem to think that a live chat system is better for their purposes. Still, it remains a place where citizens of the dark web can still have a say and keep up to date on their world.
The Hub is probably one of the most famous dark web forums still online today. This forum is strongly focused on topics that relate to darknet markets and the merchandise people can buy there. Especially narcotics.
It’s known as a “cross-market” forum, which means that it isn’t attached to any of the markets who run their own forums. Famously this is the forum that hosts “DoctorX“, a real medical doctor who provides real advice to drug users on the forum as part of the Hub’s overall harm reduction practices.
The Hub is an information exchange and strictly forbids buying and selling on the forum itself.
Here you’ll find advice on avoiding scams on the darknet, info on cryptocurrency, reviews of various markets and lots of information on security issues. Take the information from where it comes. If you can keep a straight head then The Hub can be an enlightening place.
There are many sites on the dark web that let users anonymously write confessions on just about any topic. Reading these confessions can become quite an obsession for some people and as you might expect, some of these confessions are shocking and rather dark.
Undoubtedly many of them are completely fictional and one hopes that the worst of them are. However, no one could accuse them of being uninteresting.
Anon confessions appeal to the voyeuristic side of our natures. The same sort of compulsion that makes people slow down when passing
The Explosives and Weapons Forum
This is another forum that shares information that would be frowned upon and shut down quickly on the clearnet. Here anonymous users who have an interest in either explosives or weapons come to learn and exchange information. While it might sound very scary, the vast majority of people are simply interested in the science of explosives or weapons. Many simply want to know about weapons because they are interested in collecting, making or maintaining them.
In the end, simply knowing this stuff isn’t illegal in and of itself, although that might differ by country. After all, the guy who authored the anarchist’s cookbook is a free man, right? It’s about what you do with that knowledge, so perhaps resist the temptation to do something dodgy with the information you gain on forums such as these.
Deep Web Ministries
Christian missionaries have been known to brave some of the darkest, most savage places on earth to spread their religious messages. So perhaps it’s not so surprising that they’d also want to shine a light on the “dark” web to see if they can catch a few unwary sheep for the flock.
Through the Deep Web Ministries, the goal is apparently to help people break free from vices such as narcotics and illegal pornography.
Are the Deep Web Ministries for real or just a joke? I guess we’ll never know, but it’s definitely interesting!
Various Twitter Clones
It seems that deep web browsers aren’t satisfied with all the Clearnet’s many different social media options. At least that’s the impression I get given how many times people have tried to make copies of Twitter on the dark web. The idea with these Twitter clones is to provide a place where people can post short text messages and sort of start impromptu anonymous Twitter-like threads. Although in the case of Twitter itself, it was hacked within hours of launch.
In the real world of Twitter, you can get fired for a Tweet or otherwise completely ruin your life. The odd dark web twitter clone provides a place where you can speak your mind in public without repercussions.
Facebook is one of the most popular sites in the world. It’s as big today as the entire web was in the early 2000s. For many people, Facebook is the internet. So keen is the social media giant on spreading itself, that there’s an official Facebook onion page.
Ironically, Facebook is all about making money from your personal info. So all this site does is allow you to securely access the site. Which is why there have been projects like TorBook. TorBook comes and goes as various people try to get it off the ground. If you find it and manage to use it, don’t be surprised if it’s gone the next day.
The Revolving Chans
I have to admit that I spent a lot of time on the Clearnet’s 4chan. It was my first real experience of a subversive anonymous website and it’s still up and running today! Based on the Japanese 2Chan, “chans” are anonymous image boards where someone posts a picture and then starts a thread on an infinitely rolling set of pages. New posts bump threads up and if a thread is inactive long enough to reach the bottom, it’s deleted forever.
Chans have developed their own culture and over the years and the dark web versions of these image boards are even more lawless than those hosted where everyone can see them.
Although image boards are generally divided into several categories, there is no telling what you’ll see or what someone will write. Emboldened by anonymity this is where the best and worst of the human mind is put on display.
Some of the most vibrant and long-lasting communities on the dark web belong to hackers. Usually, anyone who wants to join needs to be vouched for by a trusted member. Alternatively, there might be some sort of vetting process.
If you’re a budding hacker this is where you’ll learn both the social structure of the hacking community and the technical details of cybersecurity. This is where people boast or recruit. You can trust no one and at the same time, it really is a true human subculture. Few are admitted, but by all accounts, this is where the most interesting stuff on the dark web happens. We only hear about it in the news later.
Places to Avoid
While freedom of speech reigns supreme on the dark web, there are some communities that can get you in trouble simply for visiting them Of course, you should always use a VPN to hide the fact that you’re using the Tor network as a minimum requirement, but even so there’s no reason to tempt fate.
You should also consider the fact that some dark web pages may run scripts that leave things on your computer that are traceable. Which means using a virtual machine might be a good idea. That protects you from having your info stolen as well as from leaving evidence on your computer of the places you might have visited.
Apart from the technical and legal issues, you should also take into account the psychological toll some of the free-for-all image boards and forums can take. Boards that deal with extreme violence, illegal adult sexual material, and other even stranger things can do real damage to your mental hygiene. You are of course free to look at, read or watch whatever you like. But there is no such thing as media consumption without any consequences. If you happen upon such a place while exploring the deep web, perhaps consider backing out for your own safety and sanity.
How To Find Dark Web Communities
If you want to experience some of these communities first hand, how would you find them? You can’t use Google to find them directly!
First of all, you need to use the Tor Browser in order to access .onion sites. Combined with a good VPN to hide the fact that you’re on Tor in the first place from your ISP and other nosy parties.
That’s only half the battle, you also need the actual onion link to visit a given page. The only real way is to trawl places like Reddit or look for link repositories on the clearnet using Google. Don’t be disappointed if a link you find doesn’t work anymore. The dark web is constantly shifting. Sites go down, they go up elsewhere and you really can’t bargain on them being around forever.
The Amazing World of Dark Web Communities
No matter what time period of history you look at there is always an underground of some sort. Anarchists and iconoclasts who just don’t feel satisfied with what mainstream society offers. The only thing that’s really changed us the technology. It’s now really possible to talk with like-minded people in safety. You can connect with anyone in the world. They don’t know who you are and you don’t know them. The free exchange of ideas can take place in its purest form.
It sounds exciting and it really can be an experience like no other. However, as I said above you need to protect yourself. Curiosity killed the cat, as they say. Don’t divulge personal information on the dark web. Think carefully about how you respond to questions. After all, you don’t know who the person on the other side of the conversation is. Participating in some of these communities can be incredibly rewarding and freeing, but like any adventure, you have to know and accept the risks before finally taking the plunge.