For years, the darknet has been viewed as the criminal underbelly of the internet.
In a lot of ways, it is exactly that, but many don’t realize that there is a silver lining to it as well.
The darknet is the home of the whistleblower. It is a place where views can be expressed freely without fear of retribution. Remember, whistleblowers are the enemy of most corporations and governments.
By broadcasting their messages under the cover of anonymity, whistleblowers effectively put their physical, financial and mental wellbeing at risk of harm from their powerful enemies.
It is purely for that reason that the darknet houses revolutionary characters such as Edward Snowden, the infamous whistleblower who brought the world to a standstill when he divulged the National Security Agency’s secrets to the public.
Snowden may be in asylum far away from his enemies in the United States, but he is still capable of relaying more truths to the public without giving away his real identity or location. For that, we have the darknet to thank.
Anonymity is a Vital Commodity
Whistleblowers repeatedly endanger not just their own lives but that of their families as well every time they expose the corruption of corporations and governments to the public. That’s why they need the darknet.
Around these parts, anonymity is the only armor you get, and flimsy as that may sound, it has proved to be an instrumental tool.
Staying anonymous on the darknet is the key to survival for any whistleblower. Effective web encryption tools such as Tor and Virtual Private Networks afford them the luxury of hiding from powerful corporations and even governments.
But because of the sheer resourcefulness of their enemies, sometimes even these are not enough.
Forums, Media Sites & PGP Encryption: The Whistleblower’s Natural Habitat
Since the darknet is nothing but a mass of un-indexed sites that make up for over 70 percent of the internet, where do whistleblowers post their reports?
Some of the places most commonly frequented by whistleblowers on the darknet are anonymous forums. Darknet forums are a haven for free speech and expression.
They post their findings on these sites and based on the credibility of their stories, the information spreads until it finally hits mainstream media.
Another platform that has recently become a safe place for whistleblowing is onion media sites. Several independent news outlets including The New York Times and ProPublica have now opened duplicate onion sites where people can submit information anonymously.
Although, darknet pundits advise that most of these recently onion-ized media sites should be approached with a measure of caution, especially since some of them may have ties to the institutions that are being exposed.
Extra care should be observed in such cases to avoid exposure.
Thanks to technology, there exists a third avenue of expression for whistleblowing—PGP encryption, which has revolutionized how activists, journalists and political dissidents communicate with each other.
This technological advancement allows people to relay encrypted messages anonymously with the aid of a PGP key.
Using PGP encryption ensures that the only person who can access your message is the one that possesses the private key. Here, the darknet provides an extra layer of anonymity by helping both parties to hide their IP addresses.
PGP messaging is considered an essential tool for whistleblowing these days.
Dedicated whistleblower sites are numerous on the darknet. Starting with the most famous of them all, WikiLeaks, each one of these sites is dedicated to providing whistleblowers with a platform to express themselves openly and get the right kind of coverage.
Despite all that, every whistleblower takes it upon themselves to keep their identities properly hidden.
Even though the darknet provides anonymity, bits of information such as the metadata from their submissions can be used to track them down.
There is understandably a lot of skepticism involved when it comes to whistleblowing. Even the most dedicated sites can be dangerous since there is no way of knowing the people behind the site.
Furthermore, even the most legitimate of sites, WikiLeaks, has come under fire in the past for suspicions of being secretly under Russian influence.
A “trust no one” kind of attitude is important to have as a whistleblower, and it is one of the few mindsets that keeps them safe from their resourceful foes.
Regardless of how they get their message across, whistleblowers are the true heroes of modern society as regarded by many. It is just unfortunate that their main tool of trade also happens to be an aide to cybercrime.