A Telegraph columnist and researcher of online social movements reports his findings collected while roaming the outer limits of the Internet.
Bartlett found a world inhabited by trolls, lone wolves, drug dealers, anorexia sufferers, libertarians, camgirls, pedophiles, and neo-Nazis, among countless others. Beginning with an informative and entertaining look at the beginnings of the Internet, the author briefly explains Arpanet, bulletin board systems, flame wars, and the evolution of radical online libertarians who came to be known as cypherpunks. These early colonizers of the Internet stressed that this new frontier of cyberspace should be used to shore up the values of “personal liberty, privacy and anonymity.” Bartlett deconstructs the intricacies of encryption, crypto money, and stealth addresses. The author combines technical information with his own excursions to the other side of the Web: making a purchase from the Silk Road; attending a camgirl session with one of the “world’s top cam-models”; meeting with a well-known member and founder of the anti-immigration English Defence League. As Bartlett notes, those in need of “talking” with someone regarding issues of self-mutilation, bulimia, anorexia, or suicide can find what they think is help and counsel online, where support groups have proliferated. Though the author’s tone is nonjudgmental throughout, Bartlett advises readers to be wary when entering this murky environment: “freedom in the dark net comes with a price. People have to be prepared for what they might encounter there.” Bartlett also explains that these shadowy online behaviors, which at first glance may appear to be simple moral questions of right and wrong, are more nuanced. He concludes with a solid compilation of endnotes covering the posts, articles, and websites he relied on and a reading list for further exploration of the subject.
A provocative excursion to the darker side of human nature set free by the anonymous and unregulated boundaries of cyberspace.