Even for the powers that be, telling a fib every now and then to shape public opinion is not something particularly strange or unheard of.
However, the authorities seem to be over exercising this practice with cases related to the dark web, perhaps because most of these dark web busts don’t make it to the mainstream media outlets on account of being too inconsequential.
Now, Motherboard’s decision to call the authorities’ bluff every time a “major dark web bust” was filtered through on online sources of information has revealed that the wool is being pulled over everyone’s eyes regularly.
Apparently, a large number of the successful operations we’ve seen in the recent months since the authorities seemingly began to gain traction on dark web criminals are nothing more than exaggerations of true facts or outright lies.
Authorities are Too Focused on Generating Buzz
It seems that law enforcement agencies did not anticipate an outcome where they would be painted as the dishonest, PR-influenced entities they now clearly appear to be.
Although some significant dark web arrests have been carried out successfully, the general theme seems to be an exaggeration of facts to play up the effectiveness of the said authorities in keeping drug-fueled darknet markets in check.
These overstatements sometimes go as far as mentioning non-existent entities or citing reputable agencies (most commonly the Drug Enforcement Administration) in their operations, in which, as it has now been revealed, they are not usually involved in, to begin with.
It appears that the authorities have decided to generate the impression that they’re gaining ground, particularly in the ongoing drug war against the darknet markets, a fact that is starting to look like nothing but baseless hype.
The Theme Appears to Be Universal
The latest case of ballooned facts from the authorities is still ringing in everyone’s minds. “Operation Hyperion,” as it was dubbed, was originally met with skepticism as everyone wondered how so many countries, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the US, and a number of countries from Europe, managed to coordinate in order to identify the thousands of dark web users it claimed to had found.
The lack of clear information also led many to believe that perhaps this guardedness was a clear indication that the operation was engineered to intimidate dark web criminals from doing what they know best.
A press release from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcements (ICE) went as far as saying that the DEA was involved. However, following a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Motherboard, the DEA denied claims that it ever took part in the seemingly dubious operation.
The Fake Strike Force
In the case of the arrests of two men from the AlphaBay dark web market for allegedly pushing heroin and cocaine, the Central California Darknet Strike Force was mentioned alongside the DEA as crucial components that contributed to the success of the operation, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office.
The DEA later confirmed to Motherboard that this was also untrue and that the Central California Darknet Strike Force was an entity listed for PR purposes and does not exist within the DEA.
The Europol seem to be following the trend as well after the success of 2014’s Operation Onymous was revealed to have been slightly overstated.
Originally thought to have resulted in the shutting down of more than 600 dark web markets, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that this was a largely inaccurate ballpark figure.
In reality, Operation Onymous had resulted in the shuttering of about 400 URLs belonging to a handful of dark web sites, a bunch of phishing sites, and a few darknet markets according to a later clarification by the FBI and a number of independent researchers.
Nothing quite significant had come out of the operation, and in hindsight appears to be mere PR hype.
This seemingly ancient trend of blowing up small scale dark web arrests just to generate the appropriate hype paints the authorities in an undesirable light.
As a result, it is advisable that any consequent and colorful headlines of highly successful dark web crackdowns should not be taken too literally; there could be a fair amount of overstated information.
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